Detroit officials blame landlord for closing of Russell Industrial Center due to safety violations

City officials say complex's landlord didn't comply with allowing inspections

By Karen Drew - Reporter/Anchor , Derick Hutchinson

DETROIT - Business owners and artists who were evicted from the Russell Industrial Center this week swarmed Detroit City Hall on Thursday, demanding answers from officials.

City inspectors found dozens of fire and safety violations at the complex and, as a result, the tenants running businesses have to be out of the building by next Tuesday.

READRussell Industrial Center closes after receiving dozens of fire safety violations

The artists are the real victims in the Russell Industrial Center's closing, so they showed up on the fourth floor of city hall at the building department.

"We need to hold the owners' feet to the fire," a tenant said.

A total of 184 artists and craftsmen were told they have to leave their rented spaces at the complex by next Tuesday due to safety violations.

"Where are you going to find artists and people that have brought value to the city in one place?" a tenant said.

The artists admit there are issues at the Russell Industrial Center, but they said their individual rented spaces are safe.

"What they are talking about, with the wood, yes, it's illegal," a tenant said.

"You're fine paying the rent whether or not there are extension cords or a fire hazard?" Local 4 Defender Karen Drew asked.

"We don't use that," a tenant said.

Two weeks ago, the Local 4 Defenders broke the story that the Russell Industrial Center was hit with dozens of safety violations. Now city officials are talking for the first time.

"My job is to make sure these people are safe," said David Bell, director of building engineering and safety. "These people should be talking to the landlord. Their landlord put them in this situation."

City officials said they've given the owner of the Russell Industrial Center more than $20,000 in tickets because of the violations.

MORESafety violations were reported months before Russell Industrial Center closed

"The owner erected tenant spaces with combustible material," Bell said. "There are very hazardous situations throughout that building."

Why did it take so long for the city to complete the inspections? Officials said the landlord didn't comply with allowing the inspections.

The rented spaces are in Building One and Building Two of the Russell Industrial Center.

A broken elevator is causing problems for many tenants who can't get their belongings out of the building, so a part has been ordered to fix the elevator. Once the elevator is fixed, tenants will have seven days to move out.

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