Tenants of Russell Industrial Center in Detroit told vacate order is on hold

Many tenants clearing out their spaces

DETROIT – Most of the tenants at the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit have just hours left to vacate the complex under a city order, but the situation has gotten more complicated.

A Local 4 Defenders investigation uncovered the numerous fire safety code violations at the Russell Industrial Center. Since then, the city has inspected the complex and ordered the tenants to vacate the building until it's brought into compliance.

But tenants are being told Monday night that the vacate order is on hold. Many are still moving out as they want to protect their investments and get some straight answers.

READDoes Russell Industrial Center in Detroit pose major fire risk?

"I feel ripped off, stepped on and kicked to the side," Mahindi Masai, of Studio 20X15, said.

Many tenants feel the owner of the Russell Industrial Center, Dennis Kefallinos, is to blame for not keeping the building up to proper code.

"How could you do this to me?" Masai said. "How could you give me a contact to set up a sound stage when this building isn't even zoned for that?"

Others said the city of Detroit had years to check on the building and get it right. They think the city is to blame for making it into a bigger mess.

"The city hasn't taken the time to be clear about what's going on at all," a tenant said.

Tenants were originally told that everyone had to move out, but Local 4 has learned that on Monday, owners of three spaces were told they can stay because they have certificates of occupancy and compliance, something most owners had no idea they needed.

"I didn't know anything about the zoning laws," a tenant said. "See, we shouldn't have to know any of that stuff."

"I think they're covering (for themselves) right now," Allison Key, of Urban Pheasant Glass, said. "I think the tenants have put up enough of a fight that they can't ignore this. I mean, we're not going to go away with our tails between our legs."

Now, the city is allowing Kefalinos to submit an appeals application that will be heard on Wednesday. If the board believes compliance isn't attainable, spaces will have to be clear within 24 hours.

"There are businesses and people who have been here for almost 30 years, like multiple businesses," Key said. "They can't just relocate right now. We're not going to stop fighting."

One of the owners of the spaces who is allowed to stay said his code compliance is only good for 30 days. He said he was given the impression it could be renewed with the city on a monthly basis.

If other tenants think they have the proper permits or want to get legally established, they need to go to room 408 on the fourth floor of the City Hall.

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