Tenants won’t budge from Little Village building eyed for demolition

“We have no plans to leave,” said one man who lives there. The building is to be demolished to make way for a new St. Anthony Hospital.

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Juan Herrera, Agustin Aguilar, Ivan Cruz and Marcos Hernandez stand outside their apartment at 3200 S. Kedzie Ave. in the Little Village neighborhood,

Juan Herrera, from left, Agustin Aguilar, Ivan Cruz and Marcos Hernandez stand outside their apartment Wednesday at 3200 S. Kedzie Ave. in the Little Village neighborhood.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The building in Little Village is fenced off and a security guard has been stationed there to ready the structure for demolition.

But there’s a hold up: the men living in it.

Marcos Hernandez is one of five Mexican immigrant musicians who live in the industrial office space at 3200 S. Kedzie Ave. that he helped convert into living quarters.

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Hernandez, 40, said he subleased the space from the original renter, who died last year.

“It’s a great space. My friends, they come here and say their apartment isn’t this nice,” he said.

The building was purchased in 2018 by Chicago Southwest Development Corp., which is run by Guy Medaglia, who’s also the CEO of St. Anthony Hospital.

Medaglia is seeking permits to demolish the building and neighboring structures, which were part of a Mexican flea market that went into foreclosure, in order to relocate the hospital. He also plans to develop nearby land into a new community on the Southwest Side.

Lenny Asaro, an attorney for the development corporation, said there’s no evidence Hernandez or other occupants ever had a valid lease agreement.

Asaro said the fence was erected in December before owners realized anyone was living there.

“We had absolutely no idea they were living there. We were under the assumption they were operating a business there,” he said. “The building is zoned for industrial use, so it’s actually illegal and dangerous for anyone to live there.”

Hernandez believes the new owners put up the fence to get them to move.

Hernandez said he and his roommates changed the lock to come and go freely.

Asaro said he’s aware of the alteration and has no problem with it.

Because the property is zoned for industrial and not residential use, the state’s eviction moratorium doesn’t apply. Asaro is in the process of seeking an eviction.

A security guard sits in his car near a demolition notice that hangs on the fence at 3200 S. Kedzie Ave. in the Little Village neighborhood, Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 27, 2021.

A security guard is parked outside the building at 3200 S. Kedzie Ave. in the Little Village neighborhood.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Asaro said he’d hoped it wouldn’t come to this. He said several warnings and notices had been made regarding their demolition plans in the past several months. More recently, staff at St. Anthony had reached out to see if they could help find new housing.

“We need them to vacate and they refuse. And now they’re availing themselves of squatters rights,” Asaro said.

Hernandez said he feels he’s been treated in a sub-human manner. He said if he and his roommates had been respectfully asked to leave, they would have.

Hernandez said he sought to pay rent, but his checks weren’t accepted.

“We have no plans to leave,” Hernandez said. “We would need to go to court. If we have to leave by order, that’s how we’ll move.”

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