Owner wants to raze Lit­tle Vil­lage build­ing where 10 kids died in fire: at­tor­ney

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY CAR­LOS BALLESTEROS, STAFF RE­PORTER cballes­[email protected]­times.com | @balles­teros_312 Car­los Ballesteros is a corps mem­ber in Re­port for Amer­ica, a not-for-profit jour­nal­ism pro­gram that aims to bol­ster Sun-Times cov­er­age of is­sues af­fect­ing Chicago’s South

The two-story build­ing in Lit­tle Vil­lage where 10 chil­dren died in their sleep from a smol­der­ing fire could be de­mol­ished early next year, the at­tor­ney for the build­ing’s land­lord said Thurs­day.

“It’s 80 per­cent cer­tain that the build­ing’s go­ing to be torn down,” said An­thony Peraica, at­tor­ney for build­ing owner Merced Gu­tier­rez.

Ac­cord­ing to Peraica, Gu­tier­rez is wait­ing for his in­sur­ance claims on the build­ing to process be­fore he re­quests city per­mits to tear it down. Peraica said Gu­tier­rez told him Tues­day he planned on raz­ing the charred build­ing.

“It’s just stand­ing walls right now. The build­ing has been a prob­lem for years. He told me two days ago he wanted to tear it down. He hasn’t called me and said he’s changed his mind,” Peraica said.

Peraica added Gu­tier­rez plans to re­move the makeshift me­mo­rial for the chil­dren in front of the prop­erty — af­ter the hol­i­days.

“The me­mo­rial left in front of the build­ing has been left undis­turbed. … The city has been de­mand­ing re­moval, but Mr. Gu­tier­rez felt it was too soon,” Peraica said.

Gu­tier­rez could not be reached for com­ment. He did not at­tend a court hear­ing Thurs­day at which the sta­tus of the build­ing was dis­cussed.

It’s been a lit­tle over three months since the deadly fire, which claimed the lives of cousins Amayah Al­maraz, 3 months; Alanni Ayala, 3; Gialanni Ayala, 5; Ariel Gar­cia, 5; Gio­vanni Ayala, 10; Xavier Con­tr­eras, 11; Nathan Con­tr­eras, 13; Adrian Her­nan­dez, 14; Ce­sar Con­tr­eras, 14; and close fam­ily friend Vic­tor Men­doza, 16.

The blaze broke out early Aug. 26 on the 2200 block of South Sacra­mento. That prop­erty has a grey­stone along the street and a garage along the al­ley. In be­tween those struc­tures is a two-story apart­ment build­ing. The chil­dren were hav­ing a sleep­over in an apart­ment on the sec­ond floor of that build­ing; the first-floor apart­ment was va­cant.

The cause of the fire has yet to be de­ter­mined. A city task force in­spected the prop­erty two days af­ter the fire and found six vi­o­la­tions in the rear apart­ments and an­other 38 vi­o­la­tions in the front build­ing, in­clud­ing miss­ing or de­fec­tive smoke and car­bon monox­ide de­tec­tors and de­fec­tive light fix­tures.

Per city or­ders, the prop­erty has re­mained va­cant and se­cured since the fire.

At the hear­ing Thurs­day morn­ing in Cook County Cir­cuit Court, Judge Leonard Mur­ray granted an or­der al­low­ing ten­ants of the grey­stone to re­trieve their be­long­ings on Dec. 18. Peraica said Gu­tier­rez will then in­stall a new elec­tri­cal sys­tem and list those units for rent.

Gu­tier­rez is due back in court Feb. 7.

SUN-TIMES FILE PHOTO

A fire in this sec­ond-floor apart­ment killed 10 chil­dren in Lit­tle Vil­lage in Au­gust. The build­ing owner in­tends to tear it down, his at­tor­ney said Thurs­day.

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