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Chicago goes to court seeking access to singer R. Kelly's studio featured in documentary

Jason Meisner and Morgan Greene, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

CHICAGO -- Embattled R&B singer R. Kelly could be on the hook for building code violations at his Chicago recording studio after the city went to court Thursday seeking access to the property featured on the documentary series "Surviving R. Kelly."

A five-page emergency motion filed by the city's Law Department alleged someone improperly converted the Near West Side space at 219 N. Justine St. into a studio and built out a kitchen without obtaining permits for the work. The motion cites the building's owner, Midwest Funding LLC, as well as "tenants and occupants," believed to be Kelly and his entourage.

The action was sparked by an anonymous call to the city's 311 line on Wednesday claiming that people were living in the two-story brick building, which is zoned for commercial use, according to city attorney Kimberly Roberts. A building inspector went to the property but was unable to gain entry, prompting the city to go to court.

"The property is zoned for commercial purposes only, so there shouldn't be anyone living there or having any kind of parties there," Roberts said. "So because of the issue of public safety, we need to get inside and assess what's going on."

The city action is solely to try to gain access to the building for an inspection -- not for anything related to any criminal case, said Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the Law Department.

The owner could be fined up to $1,000 per day per violation -- costs that could be passed on to Kelly if he was in violation of the terms of his lease, according to the city.

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During a brief hearing Thursday at the Daley Center, lawyers for the owner as well as Kelly asked Cook County Judge Patrice Ball-Reed for a one-day continuance. The judge agreed, rescheduling the case for Friday.

Melvin Simms, an attorney who represents Kelly on the real estate matter, declined to comment after court.

In a separate suit, the building's owner, Midwest Commercial Funding LLC, is trying to evict Kelly for failing to pay rent, court records show. Earlier this week, the Cook County judge overseeing that case ordered Kelly to pay Midwest almost $167,000, according to the records. The judge also allowed the owner to take possession on the property but appeared to put a temporary hold on that order, the records show.

A lawyer representing Midwest did not return a call seeking comment.

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