Safety violations force ‘immediate’ evacuation of Russell Industrial Center

A mural on the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit. Photo by Steve Neavling.

The city of Detroit ordered the immediate evacuation of the Russell Industrial Center on Monday because of numerous safety violations, the failure to obtain proper permits and the illegal use of space.

“Due to the blatant disregard for city ordinances, laws, and regulations this owner has shown, this facility will be vacated until it has all proper permits inspections and approvals,” said David Bell, director of the Detroit Building, Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department. “We plan on sitting down with the owner later on this week to discuss this facility coming into compliance.”

On Feb. 16, the city wrote in a letter to the owner that the center is “hereby ordered to immediately vacate all floors and area of the building.” An order to vacate the premises was posted at the Russell Industrial on Monday.

Some of the 150 tenants were rushing to the mammoth complex at 1600 Clay on Monday to retrieve their artwork. The Russell Industrial is an enormous art community with studios, galleries and workspaces.

According to the city, the center also had rental units, a counseling center and music recording studios. Because the complex is considered a factory, those uses are illegal.

The complex failed at least two building inspections in 2016 because of fire hazards and falling brick.

“They have erected walls using combustible materials, illegally installed plumbing, and heating systems in numerous units without the proper permits, inspections, and approvals,” Bell said. “During a recent inspection, the smell of natural gas from the multiple illegal installations was so strong, DTE had to be immediately called to correct the leak.”

The building’s owner faces numerous fines and even jail time if the hazards aren’t corrected, according to the city.

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.