City orders Russell Industrial Center to shut down after violations

The Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department of the City of Detroit has ordered the Russell Industrial Center to shut down after a number of safety and building code violations.

Many may recognize the iconic center as the massive complex that can be seen from I-75, just north of I-94. There's a lion mural on one of the walls. Seven buildings in total make up the 2.2 million square foot complex, which has been a haven for artists and entrepreneurs for decades. It's one of the largest artistic communities in the Midwest, and was even the home to some of the filming for the recent 'Batman vs. Superman' movie.

"Russell's always been a beacon of light," says Eric Novak, the marketing manager for the center. "We're actually a cornerstone of Detroit. I mean, you've seen our graffiti mural ... that's been on the cover of New York Times. We're about resilience and perseverance."

The city says, though, that the complex isn't being used as it is intended. The legal use of the facility is a factory, but it houses 150 tenants. The city says some businesses inside include antique furniture resale, photography studios, music recording studios, a counseling center, a place to work out and even residential units.

Moreso, the city says walls have been erected using combustible materials. There's illegal plumbing and heating systems that don't have the proper permits.

"During a recent inspection, the smell of natural gas from the multiple illegal installations was so strong, DTE had to be immediately called to correct the leak," David Bell, the Director of the Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department, said in a statement. 

"Due to the blatant disregard for city ordinances, laws, and regulations this owner has shown, this facility will be vacated until it has all proper permits inspections and approvals," Bell added.

"The reaction is fear; anger," says Albert Young of Michigan Hot Glass Studio. "We're going to be out of business; a lot of people will be out of business. Russell Industrial Center, for what it's worth, is an integral part of the Detroit community." He's run his workshop on the second floor of the complex since the 1980s.

"This is going to be a mess. I don't know where to go," says Matt Bommarito of Color Graphics Studio. "I've got about 4,000 square feet there, and to move out, to take it out; I live in New Baltimore. So to take it out in the suburbs is going to cost me a lot."

The city says it has plans to talk with the owner later this week to discuss bringing the complex into compliance.

This is a developing story. Stay with FOX 2 for updates.