Judge orders hotel vacated after I-Team report

March 4, 2009 4:59:20 AM PST
Residents of the single room occupancy hotel, the Diplomat, have 3 weeks to find a new home. In housing court on Tuesday afternoon, Judge Ann Houser ordered the building to be vacated by March 24 because "evidence that an imminent threat to health, safety and welfare of the tenants and occupants exists."

As the I-Team reported last Wednesday, city officials say it isn't a matter of if there will be a fire at the Diplomat, it's just a matter of when. City inspectors have found overloaded electrical circuits, broken light fixtures, faulty lighting system, compromised walls and doors, a defective sprinkler system, and an inadequate fire suppression system. There are also concerns the drinking water may be contaminated.

Nearly two years ago, the city charged the Diplomat's owner, Jack Gore, with dozens of safety code violations. Chicago fire and building department inspectors say Gore made minor fixes, but ignored most of the problems.

Last month, Gore lost his mortgage for the Diplomat and the city stripped him of his SRO license to run the hotel.

A third party assessment shows the building needs about a million dollars worth of repairs. The property is said to be worth at least 2.5 million dollars. Once the building has been vacated, Gore is still responsible for making it safe and up to code.

Judge Houser told a crowded court room, "This is a very serious order I am entering today, and I really think the city is going to have to stay on top of relocating the tenants."

Chicago Department of Law senior counsel, Steven Quaintance McKenzie, said the Department of Family and Support Services is already working to find residents somewhere else to live. A hotline number has been set up for tenants who have questions. The number is (312) 746-8753.

The case is back in court on next Tuesday when it will be decided if residents will receive money to help with their relocation costs.

Gore and his lawyers have ignored our requests for interviews.