Chateau Hotel residents avoid immediate order to vacate

Short-term fixes remedy the most hazardous problems

March 5, 2013

(WBEZ/Robin Amer)
A buildings court judge deemed the decrepit Chateau Hotel safe enough to live in, now that the new owner has fixed pressing safety concerns.

Residents of the Chateau Hotel, a single-room occupancy building in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, got positive news at buildings court Tuesday: The troubled building’s immediate safety hazards have been remedied. “So far what’s happened is a very good thing,” said Alan Mills, an attorney from the Uptown People’s Law Center who represents tenants of the building. “There is no reason that this building has to be vacated in the short term for safety.”

A representative of the fire department confirmed at a hearing that the building’s new owners, 3838 N Broadway LLC, attended to six problems highlighted by Judge William Pileggi. Those included broken or missing internal fire doors, a faulty rear fire exit, clogged garbage chutes, broken chute sprinklers and staffing deficiencies. The new owners fixed issues with the garbage chutes by closing and replacing them with trash receptacles in hallways.

The city slapped the Chateau Hotel with 137 code violations, which the new owners hope will ultimately be settled with a consent decree. But in the meantime, the short-term fixes have satisfied the city. “The building violations that remain at this site are not dangerous and hazardous, thus the building has not been deemed unsafe to occupy,” wrote Chicago Buildings Department spokesman Susan Massel to WBEZ.

Still, the work does not appear to have changed the trajectory of the building under its new ownership. Attorney Mitchell Asher said in court that 79 of the building’s 138 units are occupied, and the remaining ones will be boarded and secured. The new owners have also sent eviction notices to 25 of the remaining tenants, and seek to vacate the building to undertake a full renovation.

In response to the changes, Alderman James Cappleman (46th) wrote to WBEZ “Our immediate concern has been remedied, so we are completely focused on making sure that people who are leaving the building, have the support to find safe, permanent housing.” Cappleman has said the building needs to be emptied to undertake the extensive renovations that it needs.

Mills said his clients disagree. “I’ve worked with tenants who have lived in buildings that have undergone very substantial renovation,” Mills argued, saying electrical work, plumbing fixes, and rodent and pest extermination can all be done without vacating the premises. Mills said the owners can use the now-empty units to temporarily house remaining tenants while work continues. “There is plenty of room to work on entire floors at a time without vacating the building,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that 79 of the units were vacated. In fact, 79 are occupied while the remaining units have been vacated.