R. Kelly studio still ‘dangerous’ — and still used as an illegal residence: city
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A day after another inspection of the Near West Side warehouse rented by R. Kelly, attorneys for the city contended that the building is still being used as a residence.
“There’s still every indication that there’s residential use on the second floor,” city attorney Greg Janes said at a hearing at the Daley Center on Thursday.
And the city, Janes said, still believes “the building is dangerous.”
The city argues that the building, which is zoned for commercial use, has been used as a residence in violation of city code.
During Wednesday’s inspection, city officials saw that a bed was still in the warehouse at 219 N. Justine — where Kelly is the only tenant. The bed was also there when city inspectors went through the property on Jan. 16, when they found evidence of dozens of violations.
After those findings were presented to Cook County Circuit Court Judge Patrice Ball-Reed last month, the judge ordered that the second floor of the building be blocked off and the recording studio inside only be accessible from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Melvin Sims, an attorney for Kelly, said the singer has put forth “a Herculean effort” to comply with the judge’s order. An electrician, engineer and architect have all gone through the building, and work has begun to repair unsafe stairs found by inspectors.
Another Kelly attorney, Stephen Peck, said the bed would be removed Friday.
“Everything that we’ve done has been to make the building safer,” Peck said.
Kelly: I’m not creative from 9-5
Kelly’s attorneys also filed a motion Thursday asking Ball-Reed to “invert” the hours of operation that she set for the recording studio and allow it to be used between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. Ball-Reed is likely to rule on that motion at another hearing Friday morning.
Sims argued that the “bankers’ hours” restrictions on the use of the recording studio are “tantamount to a stop-work order” because artists cannot dictate when inspiration will strike, so they need access to a recording studio 24 hours a day.
In a supporting affidavit, Kelly — who was named in court for the first time since the case was filed — testified that he has not used the studio since the Jan. 16 order was entered.
“I have never been creative or worked between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.,” he said.
Sims added that 26 other recording studios in Chicago are all allowed to operate 24 hours a day.
Kelly — who noted that his home address is in Trump Tower — went on to say that the restrictions on the hours has also been a financial burden on him and his employees.
“I have had three engineers working for me for the last 25 years,” Kelly said. “Other musicians also use the studio when I record. I employ security personnel to provide security for myself and all other persons who use the studio. The restriction on the studio use has impacted their ability to work and make a living.”
Rent dispute unresolved
Thursday’s hearing came as another case involving the property still works through the county courts system. The owner of the building, Midwest Commercial Funding, sued Kelly last year, alleging he owed more than $170,000 in back rent and other fees.
Last week, Kelly’s attorneys filed a motion arguing that the violations cited by the city fall squarely on Midwest Commercial Funding and the previously agreed upon eviction order should be modified.
Court records show that Kelly had until Jan. 21 to pay $166,981 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. However, it remains unclear if any of those payments were made.
It’s unclear how much use Kelly now has for a recording studio. He was dropped by his record label last month during the fallout over the Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” that recapped decades’ worth of sexual abuse allegations against him.
Kelly has not been charged with any crimes since he was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.