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Judge Closes Second Floor Of R. Kelly's Studio After Inspectors Find Faulty Stairs, Illegal Use As Residence

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The second floor of the Near West Side warehouse R. Kelly uses as a recording studio is now off-limits, and the rest of the building can only be used between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., after city inspectors found a bevy of building code violations last week.

At a hearing Tuesday afternoon, city attorneys revealed a Jan. 16 inspection of the two-story warehouse at 219 N. Justine St. revealed bedrooms, bathrooms, a kitchen, a full bar and a lounge area with more than 20 seats had been built inside; all indications someone has been living in the building, even though it is zoned only for commercial use.

"We did find bedrooms with bathrooms. Inside the bathrooms there was evidence of toiletries, robes, and it appeared that people were living in the property," deputy corporation counsel Kimberly Roberts said. "In addition to that, the stairs were dangerous."

One staircase was not properly secured to a wall, and another had clothes and other debris underneath, creating a fire hazard, according to the city. Judge Patrice Ball-Reed ordered the second floor of the building off-limits until the staircases are fixed.

The city had asked the judge to prevent any part of the building from being used until the code violations are fixed, but the judge allowed the rest of the recording studio to be used between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Roberts said the living spaces were built without any plans submitted to the city, and without required permits, which means the city doesn't know if the work was done properly.

In addition to the code violations involving the stairwells, inspectors found electrical problems, and a lack of fire separation throughout the building,

"There's no plan to suggest how this was built out. There hasn't been one inspection by a city inspector to verify the work was done properly, and being out there, it's obvious that the work was not done well, which leads us to concerns about public safety," she said. "If a fire breaks out with that lack of fire separation, the entire warehouse can go up."

City inspectors do not know when the living space was built, or whether it was Kelly or the building's owners who did the work.

"If we would have been called when they were doing the work originally, then we could verify, but our inspectors were not out there to verify any of the work. So we have no idea who was doing it, because they didn't submit the plans that were required to do it," Roberts said.

Before any structural repairs can begin, the building owners must get city permits for the work.

Kelly's attorney, Melvin Sims, said he was pleased the judge did not order the building off-limits entirely, and said his client would address the code violations, but insisted the building was not being used as a home, despite the bedrooms and bathrooms inside.

"A facility on the premises does not a residence make. A couch on the premises does not make it a living room," he said. "Obviously, you have attorneys and judges, and we are interpreting how a creative spaces is to be used, and we're probably the least creative people inclined to do that."

Another hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 7, when the two sides will argue over whether the rest of the studio should be closed.


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