Landlord wins fight to evict R&B star as city claims record­ing space is il­le­gal

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY SAM CHARLES, STAFF RE­PORTER [email protected]­times.com | @samjcharles

At­tor­neys for the city are ask­ing a judge to grant in­spec­tors ac­cess to the ware­house rented by R. Kelly on the Near West Side, al­leg­ing that the two-story build­ing is be­ing used il­le­gally and not in com­pli­ance with its zon­ing des­ig­na­tion.

City lawyers said Kelly’s record­ing stu­dio in­side is not al­lowed un­der the build­ing’s zon­ing. They also al­leged the stu­dio was built with­out a per­mit. Ad­di­tion­ally, the build­ing is be­ing used as a res­i­dence, the city said, which is also not al­lowed.

“Upon in­for­ma­tion and be­lief it is be­ing used as a res­i­dence and artist workspace — specif­i­cally as a record­ing stu­dio in vi­o­la­tion of the zon­ing law,” city at­tor­neys said.

City at­tor­neys said the prop­erty at 219 N. Jus­tine “is zoned as a Planned Man­u­fac­tur­ing District,” which means the build­ing would have to have an in­dus­trial or com­mer­cial use.

The build­ing’s owner and ten­ants have also failed to “ar­range for in­spec­tion of the premises,” at­tor­neys wrote.

The com­plaint was filed Thursday, and Cook County Cir­cuit Court Judge Pa­trice Ball-Reed said she would hear ar­gu­ments Fri­day morn­ing. It’s un­clear when she will is­sue a ruling.

On Wednesday evening, in­spec­tors from the city’s Depart­ment of Build­ings and an of­fi­cial with the Fire Depart­ment could be seen knock­ing on the build­ing’s win­dows and doors in an effort to get in­side, but no one an­swered. They also shined a flash­light in­side. They de­clined to com­ment to re­porters.

City at­tor­neys are re­quest­ing Ball-Reed “au­tho­rize the Depart­ment of Build­ings to con­duct a full in­te­rior in­spec­tion of the prop­erty to de­ter­mine its cur­rent use, com­pli­ance with the code, and en­sure safety of oc­cu­pants and first re­spon­ders.”

They’re also ask­ing for an or­der against Kelly and the build­ing’s owner “to cor­rect the vi­o­la­tions al­leged in the com­plaint and to re­strain fu­ture vi­o­la­tions per­ma­nently.”

Mid­west Com­mer­cial Fund­ing LLC, which owns the build­ing, and the bank that is­sued the mort­gage were named as de­fen­dants. Kelly is not named in the fil­ing, though other de­fen­dants were listed as “ten­ants & oc­cu­pants.” Kelly is the only ten­ant.

Kelly’s attorney did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

In an emailed state­ment, Mid­west Com­mer­cial Fund­ing said the com­pany is “com­mit­ted to co­op­er­at­ing with the city and pro­vid­ing any and all sup­port that it needs to re­solve this mat­ter.”

The 8,000-square-foot build­ing is cur­rently listed for sale on sev­eral re­alty web­sites and, in at least one case, boasts of a “high pro­file ten­ant” and a record­ing stu­dio in the build­ing.

Su­per­star be­ing evicted

The city’s re­quest to in­spect the build­ing came just days af­ter an­other county judge or­dered Kelly be evicted from the build­ing. Mid­west Com­mer­cial Fund­ing sued Kelly last sum­mer, al­leg­ing he owed the com­pany nearly $80,000 in back rent.

On Mon­day, the judge ruled in Mid­west Com­mer­cial Fund­ing’s fa­vor, court records show, and awarded the com­pany $166,981 while also is­su­ing an “or­der of pos­ses­sion” for Mid­west Com­mer­cial Fund­ing.

A spokes­woman for the Cook

County sher­iff’s of­fice — the agency that han­dles evic­tions in the county — said the of­fice had not yet re­ceived the judge’s evic­tion or­der as of Thursday af­ter­noon and it was un­clear when it would be ex­e­cuted.

On Wednesday evening, a group of about 30 peo­ple ral­lied out­side the ware­house, chant­ing “black girls mat­ter.” A cou­ple of dozen peo­ple could be seen fil­ing into the build­ing. Out­side, a woman stood on the side­walk call­ing the pro­test­ers “liars.”

In 2017, Buz­zfeed News re­ported that sev­eral sets of par­ents had told var­i­ous po­lice agen­cies that Kelly was hold­ing their daugh­ters against their will in what they called a “cult.”

Tuesday, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx made a pub­lic plea for al­leged “vic­tims” of Kelly to come for­ward so that her of­fice could in­ves­ti­gate. At least two women con­tacted the state’s attorney’s of­fice Wednesday af­ter­noon, al­leg­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­duct by Kelly in 2002 at the ware­house and once at a home on the South Side in the mid-1980s.

Kelly’s attorney has de­nied all abuse al­le­ga­tions, in­clud­ing those made in a re­cent Life­time se­ries, “Sur­viv­ing R. Kelly.” The singer was ac­quit­ted of child pornog­ra­phy charges in 2008.


R. Kelly has a record­ing stu­dio in the ware­house he rents at 219 N. Jus­tine.


Demon­stra­tors protest against R. Kelly on Wednesday out­side a build­ing the singer is rent­ing at 219 N. Jus­tine.

VIDEO AT SUN­TIMES.COMWatch city in­spec­tors and a fire depart­ment of­fi­cial knock on doors and win­dows at the ware­house rented by R. Kelly.

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