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 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.
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.
Realtor photos show the inside of a building at 219 N. Justine St. that is rented by R. Kelly. | Coldwell Banker Commercial
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.
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.
Wednesday evening, a group of about 30 people rallied outside the warehouse, chanting “black girls matter.” A couple dozen people could be seen filing into the building. Outside, a woman stood on the sidewalk calling the protestors “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.