UPDATED: R. Kelly’s Chicago studio and alleged ‘cult’ outpost for sale—with him in it | Bleader

UPDATED: R. Kelly’s Chicago studio and alleged ‘cult’ outpost for sale—with him in it

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The building in question, at 219 N. Justine - MAYA DUKMASOVA
  • Maya Dukmasova
  • The building in question, at 219 N. Justine

R. Kelly's Chicago studio at 219 N. Justine is listed for sale for nearly $4.5 million by the current owner, Wisconsin-based Midwest Commercial Funding LLC. The West Loop studio space, outfitted with window bars and surveillance cameras, is also the place where the R&B star has allegedly kept an entourage of women (other reporting has used the words "cult" or "harem") confined during his stints in the city.

Last year, reporter Jim DeRogatis wrote for BuzzFeed about parents trying to extract their daughters from Kelly's alleged "cult." The Justine Street studio, DeRogatis reported, was where the women in Kelly's orbit stayed while in Chicago, and they "must ask his permission to leave." The Cook County Sheriff's Office has performed at least one well-being check at the studio, speaking with one of the women in Kelly's entourage in 2017. According to a police report obtained by the Reader, the woman said she was fine and didn't need assistance.

Reached by phone Thursday, James Hodur of Coldwell Banker Commercial, the real estate broker overseeing the sale, described the owner as an investor who "just wants to take the money out and do something else."

Hodur didn't reveal the owner's identity, but according to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, Midwest Commercial Funding LLC has owned the building since 2016. Reached by phone, Robert Chandler, a manager with the company, replied "no comment" to the question of why it was selling.

The two-story, 8,000-square-foot building is listed as an "investment property with a high profile tenant paying $22,927.41 per month" and holding a ten-year lease with eight years left. The listing also boasts of a "fully built out recording studio, lounge and full kitchen, rear drive-in-door with 1 car garage."

On Thursday morning, a black Mercedes van with tinted windows and a red Polaris Slingshot three-wheeler were parked out front. According to public records, Kelly remains the current tenant.

UPDATED FRIDAY, JANUARY 11, 2019: If R. Kelly's Chicago landlords get their way, it looks like he won't be using this building for much longer. On Thursday, January 10, 2019, Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC, legal counsel to Midwest Commercial Funding, released the following statement regarding the status of Kelly's lease at 219 N. Justine:

"A recent television documentary series featuring recording artist, R. Kelly, has focused significant public attention on a warehouse space at 219 N. Justine St. in Chicago, which Mr. Kelly leases from Midwest Commercial Funding. In June 2018, Midwest Commercial Funding initiated eviction proceedings against Mr. Kelly as the tenant of this space. The eviction, which involves non-payment of rent, has proceeded as scheduled and Midwest Commercial Funding obtained an eviction order from the court on January 7, 2019. The City of Chicago has also filed a code violation over Mr. Kelly’s use of the space and Midwest Commercial Funding is committed to cooperating with the city and providing any and all support that it needs to resolve this matter."

According to Sun-Times reporter Sam Charles, Kelly has been ordered out of the property but the Cook County Sheriff's Office has yet to execute the eviction. A Cook County judge has approved the city's motion to let inspectors into the building at 219 N. Justine on Wednesday, January 16.

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