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Owner wants to raze Little Village building where 10 kids died in fire: attorney

A fire in this second-floor apartment killed 10 children in Little Village. The building owner intends to tear it down, his attorney said Thursday. | Sun-Times photo

The two-story building in Little Village where 10 children died in their sleep from a smoldering fire could be demolished early next year, the attorney for the building’s landlord said Thursday.

“It’s 80 percent certain that the building’s going to be torn down,” said Anthony Peraica, attorney for building owner Merced Gutierrez.

According to Peraica, Gutierrez is waiting for his insurance claims on the building to process before he requests city permits to tear it down. Peraica said Gutierrez told him Tuesday he planned on razing the charred building.

“It’s just standing walls right now. The building has been a problem for years. He told me two days ago he wanted to tear it down. He hasn’t called me and said he’s changed his mind,” Peraica said.

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Peraica added Gutierrez plans to remove the makeshift memorial for the children in front of the property — after the holidays.

“The memorial left in front of the building has been left undisturbed. … The city has been demanding removal but Mr. Gutierrez felt it was too soon,” Peraica said.

Gutierrez could not be reached for comment. He did not attend a court hearing Thursday at which the status of the building was discussed.

A memorial sits outside a house

Crosses, balloons, and photos were part of a memorial for children who died in a fire that broke out in a building behind this three-story greystone apartment building in Little Village. Two teens also were injured in the fire in the 2200 block of South Sacramento Avenue. They remained at Stroger Hospital. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

It’s been a little over three months since the deadly fire, which claimed the lives of cousins Amayah Almaraz, 3 months; Alanni Ayala, 3; Gialanni Ayala, 5; Ariel Garcia, 5; Giovanni Ayala, 10; Xavier Contreras, 11; Nathan Contreras, 13; Adrian Hernandez, 14; Cesar Contreras, 14; and close family friend Victor Mendoza, 16.

The blaze broke out early Aug. 26 on the 2200 block of South Sacramento. That property has a greystone along the street, and a garage along the alley. In between those structures is a two-story apartment building. The children were having a sleepover in an apartment on the second floor of that building; the first-floor apartment was vacant.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined. A city task force inspected the property two days after the fire and found six violations in the rear apartments and another 38 violations in the front building, including missing or defective smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and defective light fixtures.

Per city orders, the property has remained vacant and secured since the fire.

At the hearing Thursday morning in Cook County Circuit Court, Judge Leonard Murray granted an order allowing tenants of the greystone to retrieve their belongings on Dec. 18. Peraica said Gutierrez will then install a new electrical system and list the units for rent.

Gutierrez is due back in court on Feb. 7.