Inside the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit.

Detroit Studio Complex May Be Shuttered Due to Ordinance Violations

The Russell Industrial Center in Detroit, a former factory that houses artist studios, antique shops, a counseling center, and a gym, received a shutdown order by the city due to numerous ordinance violations, write Louis Aguilar and Holly Fournier of the Detroit News. The complex also hosts the Dirty Show, an annual convention featuring erotic art, burlesque, and performance art, which ran earlier this month. Parts of the Hollywood blockbuster Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) were also shot at the building.

The mandate for the shutdown came on February 20, as the center’s management was working to fix previously cited safety violations regarding the building’s scant number of exit signs, its sprinkler system, a shortage of fire extinguishers, and combustible materials. Notices were posted on every door within the complex asking tenants to vacate. City officials claim the residents failed to follow municipal regulations during the creation of their businesses. “They have erected walls using combustible materials [and] illegally installed plumbing and heating systems in numerous units without the proper permits, inspections, and approvals,” said David Bell, the department director of Detroit buildings, in a statement. “During a recent inspection, the smell of natural gas from the multiple illegal installations was so strong, DTE [Energy Co.] had to be immediately called to correct the leak.” The building’s facility project manager, Eric Novack, urged tenants to call city officials to reverse the decision. “They’re frustrated. They’re concerned. They obviously want to be here. They have orders to fill and families to feed. They’re going to be out of a job,” said Novack.

City administrators also say the building has illegal residences. Dennis Kefallinos, a longtime developer in Detroit and the building’s owner, denies this. He also doesn’t know why the city has been so strong in its demand to shut down the building, though many worry that if the building is not up to code, it could meet a fate similar to that of Ghost Ship, an Oakland art space that burned down last December, killing thirty-six people.

About 150 tenants occupy the building. Kefallinos owns dozens of properties in Detroit that are either vacant or in need of serious repair. He claims, however, that he is doing what he can to keep spaces affordable: “Some developers are going for two dollars a square foot. Sometimes we go for fifty cents a square foot.”