Evicted tenants fight to keep Russell Industrial Center open

Small business owners headed to the mayor's office Thursday to fight to keep Russell Industrial Center's doors open after it was deemed dangerous this week.

More than 150 tenants were forced out on short notice.

Officials say the building is too dangerous.

Trucks and vans carrying entire livelihoods were rolling out after more than 100 small business owners were blindsided with the news that their building is condemned.

Meanwhile roughly a dozen of those same tenants visit city hall because frankly, they don't know where else to go at this point.

"We decided to come down here today to show the building department it's not just an address, it's people," said Mark Guatto of Studio 6 Design.

And they got their chance.

"We're trying to make arrangements to have a good meeting with you all," officials said.

City inspectors say they were tipped off to dozens of safety violations at the 2 million square foot center back in November.
However, they couldn't get inside until early February.

"The landlord was not compliant in allowing the inspections," said David Bell, Detroit building safety director.

When they did, they found safety concerns -- fire hazards, non-permitted plumping and heating in spots just to name a few.

"I would rather stand here and have somebody angry with me about being evicted than to have to discuss somebody dying," Bell said.

Problems and violations that were made known to the landlord, the city says -- $20,000 worth of tickets.

The affected tenants say it's a huge space -- what was done by a few bad seeds shouldn't be taken out on them.

"By holding the owner's feet to the fire you are impacting us," Guatto said.

Attempts to reach the owner Dennis Kefallinos to hear his take on the situation were unsuccessful.

"Their landlord did some very bad things to this building," Bell said.

The city told the tenants they plan to have another meeting tomorrow with the building's owner and his legal team to try and come to a solution.
In the meantime, businesses have just over a week to salvage whatever they can from now condemned workspace.

According to the City of Detroit the solution is simple: fix the problems and they move back in.

The question is the businesses afford to wait that long?