Update 11:45 a.m. We’ve added some comments and photos from tenants below.
Update 1:45 p.m. We’ve added another comment from a current tenant.
On Monday, tenants of the massive Russell Industrial Center received orders to vacate their building, citing violations of city code. The orders came from the city’s Building, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department.
The Metro Times first reported the story last night. The Russell Industrial Center is home to over 150 tenants. The popular Dirty Show just ended its annual run there this past weekend.
According to Crain’s, David Bell from the city says owners and tenants have put up, “walls using combustible materials, illegally installed plumbing, and heating systems in numerous units without proper permits, inspections, and approvals."
The Russell Industrial Center is owned by noted terrible landlord Dennis Kefallinos' Boydell Development Co. (Clay Street Group LLC). According to Crain’s, the group feels blind-sided by the orders. Odd timing - the group just started a Facebook page for their properties earlier this month.
A few questions are arising this morning. Why now? Many are saying that over fear of the Ghost Ship tragedy in Oakland last fall, there’s added pressure on large structures like this to get up to code.
Whatever the cause and sudden evictions may be, these tenants need a place to go. How can we help? Does anyone have extra space available? Does anyone have resources available we can share to help out the artists and tenants who have been displaced? Let us know in the comments or hit us up on the tip line so we can share.
We’ve received this comment from a tenant this morning on what’s been happening there lately.
“I work for one of the businesses in the Russell and just wanted to pass on info that I know - About a month ago the city and police showed up and following that the management worked to make some changes/fixes and posted notices of upcoming inspections. The city followed up with inspections last week but there was no follow up or feedback given to tenants. Instead, city inspectors showed up yesterday afternoon with police escort to slap stop work orders on all businesses without any prior warning. One of the notices says the owners have until 2/23/17 to fix problems or the building will get shut down/locked...meaning 3 days notice to vacate. The owner of our business called the numbers listed on the notices which say "the department is available to assist you..." but their response was essentially 'not our problem, talk with your landlord'. There has been little to no information coming from the landlords either. It remains unclear if they are just trying to get the landlords to make concessions/fixes or if they seriously intend to shut down the place. Our business is a wood shop and has thousands of pounds worth of equipment and material that would take 1-2 weeks minimum to move at serious cost and down time to our operation - and for many of these businesses and artists this will be a death sentence. The city is either trying to make a point to the owners or is seriously delusional, because this will seriously damage the creative community of the city. The idea that 100+ businesses could vacate this building in 3 days is fantasy.”
Michael Axtell, who runs Proving Grounds Strength and Konditioning out of the Russell Industrial Center, offers his view as a tenant:
“I have no issue with the Russell. I knew what I was walking into. When a place has cheapish rent, goes month to month, and does not check your credit, you shouldn’t be surprised. I am in Building 1 though (the mall). Building 2 (the art building) is another story. The owners had broken elevator for way to long, which I know cost a couple people their businesses. That is another story though. I do have issue with the news dramatizing the situation. That forced the city to be more aggressive, in order to save face. I am happy that the main fire issues are being resolved. I also have issues with how quickly we are being told to vacate. My situation is difficult because of how heavy everything is and how much room it takes up. I could fill a whole 53’ semi trailer with my space. I studied development and re-development of cities for my masters. I have not stopped in order to pursue a PhD. Losing this node in the city will not be good. “Opportunities form on the fringe of chaos” - Dr. C.S. Holling (Founder of Ecological Economics and Resilience Theory) The RIC was the fringe and chaos at times. But it afforded people like me an opportunity to grow something real and help the city.”