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Building inspectors find code violations at R. Kelly studio, including evidence of use as residence |
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Building inspectors find code violations at R. Kelly studio, including evidence of use as residence

Jose M. Osorio | Chicago Tribune
City inspectors from the Department of Buildings arrive at the studio space for musician R. Kelly at 219 N. Justine St. in Chicago.
Jose M. Osorio | Chicago Tribune
The studio space for musician R. Kelly at 219 N. Justine St. in Chicago.

CHICAGO — Building inspectors on Wednesday identified a number of code violations at R. Kelly’s Chicago recording studio, finding evidence that the industrial space was used as a residence even though it was not zoned for that purpose, the city Buildings Department announced.

A team of inspectors spent about an hour inside the R&B superstar’s Near West Side studio at 219 N. Justine St. carrying out an investigation and will present a list of the violations at a court hearing Tuesday, according to department spokesman Gregg Cunningham.

“City inspectors will now process and itemize the building code violations observed during the inspection and will incorporate the violations into an amended complaint for the next court hearing,” Cunningham said in an emailed statement.

Any penalties will be determined in court, Cunningham added. The studio’s owner could be fined up to $1,000 per day per violation — costs that could be passed on to Kelly if he was in violation of the terms of his lease.

Steve Greenberg, an attorney for Kelly, said no one was living at the studio and that it should not be surprising that it included places for sleeping or taking breaks.

“They certainly didn’t find anything that would support any of these ridiculous allegations that have been made, and that’s what I’m concerned with,” Greenberg said.

Cunningham would not provide further details about what inspectors saw when they went inside the two-story brick warehouse about 12:10 p.m. Wednesday. He said the team included inspectors for plumbing, electrical systems and carpentry as well as inspectors from the Fire Prevention Bureau.

The inspection was not related to any possible criminal investigation involving the Chicago musician following the Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which aired earlier this month and renewed attention on sexual abuse allegations that have dogged Kelly for decades.

While officials conducted the inspection Wednesday, police blocked off an alley near the studio between Laflin and Justine streets. Police were there to assist with any dangerous building conditions that might have developed, Cunningham said.

The Buildings Department won a court order to inspect the property after it received a complaint that people were residing there even though it’s not zoned for that.

In a court hearing last week, an inspector for the Buildings Department, David Trejo, testified that when he and his team went to the property, they saw windows that had been “sealed up” and evidence that the building “was not being used as a warehouse” as intended.

After Judge Patrice Ball-Reed granted the city’s emergency motion, Kimberly Roberts, an attorney for the city’s Law Department, told reporters that a building being used for residential purposes requires smoke detectors and other safety measures that need to be inspected. In addition, allegations of “some illegal parties” being held at the property were made, she said.

Online records show the building is on the market at an asking price of just under $4 million. The real estate listing states that the property is “fully rented” with a “high profile tenant” paying nearly $23,000 a month. The first floor has a “fully built out recording studio, lounge and full kitchen,” the listing states.

The lease, made public as part of an eviction lawsuit, shows that Kelly was granted permission to “modify the existing recording studio” to meet his “specific needs.” He also was allowed under the terms of the lease to create an “apartment type area on the second floor,” according to the records.

However, the lease specifically states that Kelly was responsible for complying with “all applicable laws and building codes” when making the alterations.

The recording studio, based in an industrial warehouse, has become the site of multiple protests following the release of “Surviving R. Kelly.”

Protesters did not show up Wednesday as inspectors entered the 8,000-square-foot building. Curious passers-by stopped to take photos and videos of the building. One woman driving by in a car shouted out the window, “Is he there?” Others came to support Kelly and said they would not stop listening to his music despite the renewed allegations in the documentary.

Kelly has long denied all allegations of sexual abuse and running a “sex cult.” More than a decade ago, Cook County prosecutors indicted Kelly on child pornography charges alleging he filmed himself having sex with a girl estimated to be as young as 13, but a jury acquitted him of all charges in 2008.

As part of the eviction lawsuit, Kelly has until early next week to pay nearly $175,000 in back rent and other costs to avoid being evicted from the studio, according to court records obtained by the Chicago Tribune.

Categories: Features | Celebrity News
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