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Building code violations found inside R. Kelly’s Near West Side warehouse: city

City officials inspect the studio warehouse rented by singer R. Kelly at 219 N. Justine, Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 16, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

City officials inspect the studio warehouse rented by singer R. Kelly at 219 N. Justine, Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 16, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Officials from the Chicago Department of Buildings found evidence of several building code violations during their hour-long inspection of the Near West Side warehouse rented by R. Kelly on Wednesday.

“At today’s inspection, City inspectors observed building code violations including evidence of residential use which is non-compliant with the zoning code and work performed without approved plans or permits,” a Department of Buildings spokesman said in a statement.

Arriving shortly after noon, roughly 10 officials with the Department of Buildings and Chicago Fire Department entered through the alley and spent about an hour inside.

The inspectors’ court-ordered access was obtained by the city amid allegations that the building had been altered illegally. Given inspectors’ findings Wednesday, the city will now “incorporate the violations into an amended complaint for the next court hearing,” according to the Department of Buildings.

The next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Before the inspectors went in, however, at least four other people not with the city got inside first. Their identities or connection to R. Kelly were unclear.

Front door of warehouse rented by R. Kelly

A man knocks Wednesday afternoon on the door of the Near West Side warehouse rented by singer R. Kelly. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

About a half dozen Chicago Police officers joined the inspectors, but those officers stayed outside to “secure the perimeter” of the building — a standard practice when the Buildings Department conducts inspections, according to a CPD spokesman.

The warehouse, where Kelly is the only tenant, has come under scrutiny in recent weeks since the airing of a documentary series on Lifetime that detailed a host of allegations of sexual impropriety by Kelly — mostly involving underage girls. He has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Last week, city attorneys filed an emergency motion in Cook County Circuit Court, asking a judge to grant them access to the building. They alleged that, though the building is zoned for industrial uses, it was serving as a residence. Also, city attorneys said, a recording studio inside was illegal.

Kelly’s attorney, Melvin Sims, did not respond to a request for comment. At a press conference last week, though, Sims told reporters that there were no code violations at 219 N. Justine.

“The parties to this litigation — including the property owner and the tenant — are cooperating fully with the city of Chicago in ensuring that all building code and zoning measures at the subject premises do remain compliant,” he said.

Court records show Kelly has until Monday to pay $166,981 in back rent to the owner of the property at 219 N. Justine St. Additionally, he must also pay $6,122 in attorneys’ fees and $780 in court costs.

Midwest Commercial Funding owns, and is currently selling, the building.

Similar allegations of sexual misconduct have dogged Kelly throughout his career and were first reported by the Sun-Times in 2000. He has not been charged with any crimes since he was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.

On Friday, Circuit Court Judge Patrice Ball-Reed ordered that the inspectors be allowed in. Kelly’s attorney, Melvin Sims, had asked that the inspection take place in 30 days.

An attorney for Midwest Commercial Funding told the judge then that the building owners “don’t have a key” and couldn’t get inside, either.

A copy of Kelly’s lease, included in the case file, shows that Midwest Commercial Funding gave Kelly permission to make several alterations to the property that are at the heart of the city’s motion.

“Landlord hereby grants permission to Tenant to modify the existing recording studios to meet Tenant’s specific needs as well as create an apartment type area on the second floor,” the lease reads.

On Jan. 8, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx made a public plea for accusers to come forward so that the office could investigate allegations against Kelly. Foxx said she has not — and cannot — open a criminal probe in the absence of cooperating witnesses.