Detroit agreement with Russell Industrial Center allows tenants to stay

Dozens of businesses forced out of the Russell Industrial Center because of building code violations - but on Friday the city reached an agreement with the tenants.

Some work has already been done, but the building owner has a number of deadlines to reach after the city ordered this place to be shut down. Today tenants learned they can stay but they say the damage has already been done.

"Half the tenants have moved out, two of my employees quit because of the uncertainty,” said Alan Kaniarz.

Kaniarz has run this woodworking shop in the Russell Industrial Center for 30 years. He says he has turned down work since the city of Detroit threatened to shut the center down for code violations two weeks ago.

"You have walls built, you had no exit signs, you had sprinkle system that wasn't completely operable," said David Bell, director of Building Safety Engineering and Environmental Department in Detroit.  "You had elevators that weren't working."

Bell says the center's owner is working to get the buildings up to code and is under a strict timeline to come into compliance.

"These timelines we have, we believe they're obtainable," Bell said. "And if for some reason they don't, and there are going to be stiff penalties."

Bell says tenants won't have to pay for the sins of the owner, just their own. They have 60 days to commit architectural plans.

Kaniarz says that would cost thousands of dollars, even if he did the bulk of the work himself.

"This has been absolutely devastating to me," he said. "I've been in business for myself since 1983 and never gone through a period of trouble like I'm going through now."

The seven buildings that make up the industrial center have been something like a sanctuary for artists, musicians and entrepreneurs. Many have already left and although the city tells FOX 2 remaining businesses are safe, they are still on edge.

"I think the city is with us," said Marc Vandenberg, of The Juice Box. "And how can we make sure we hold the Russell accountable for doing the repairs that keeps all of us here and this is a special spot. This is a unique spot in the city. We just don't pick up our glass furnaces and move out. We are built into the building."

Tenants have to get a certificate of occupancy in 90 days, something the city has not required them to do before. The property manager said that the owner is thrilled the city is working with them on this and is confident he can replace the tenants that left because he says the rental is a magnet for small business.

The owner still he has to obtain a number of permits, electrical, plumbing and the like, some has already been done. He has to put up exit signs and also get the sprinkler system work, some of that has been done and also has to get fire extinguishers. There are litanies of secondary issues that have to be addressed within the month.