Tenants protest city's decision to shut down the Russell Industrial Center

Posted at 5:40 PM, Feb 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-24 09:26:56-05

Tenants ordered to stop working in the Russell Industrial Center at Clay and I-75 in Detroit went to the city to fight the decision.

The city has demanded the building’s owner make repairs right away if he wants business to continue.

“We’re not protest-type people,” said Mark Guatto. “We are workers.”

Guatto owns the Studio 6 Design Furniture Company. He has been a Russell Industrial Center tenant for 28 years.

He and other tenants say they got a shock on Monday when the city visited the property and posted a vacate notice. No one can legally work in the building come next Tuesday.

"We got no formal notice and we are just supposed to pack up and go? My roots are down here,” said Jerry Eden, a building tenant.

“It is unfair to use us as pawns in this game,” said Guatto.

They went to the Buildings Safety Engineering and Environmental Department asking to keep working as the building is brought up to code.

“I would rather stand here and have somebody angry about being evicted, then have to discuss somebody dying,” said David Bell, Director of the Buildings Safety Engineering and Environmental Department.

David Bell told them the building is not safe. Inspectors found dozens of dangerous violations. He said tenants should complain to their landlord, Dennis Kefallinos.

“Dennis Kefallinos, he got at least $20,000 in fines issued to him, and he is going to have more if he doesn’t comply in a timely manner,” said Bell.

Kefallinos owns dozens of buildings across the city and is no stranger to code violations. 7 Action News reached out to him, but we were told he was not interested in an interview.

Workers have been told it could take about 90 days for the work to be done to bring the building up to code.