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Chateau to close, Cappleman says safety issues "life-threatening"
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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A longtime controversial single room occupancy hotel (SRO) is closing doors amid protest from residents and area groups.

The Chateau Hotel, one of a dwindling number of SROs in Lakeview, has been purchased and will be renovated into apartments, according to 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman.

"A number of residents have received notices to vacate and there will be more," Cappleman told Windy City Times.

Cappleman announced the sale of the building in January and said he would reveal the new owner in late January. But thus far, the identity of the buyer remains unconfirmed.

The buyer is listed as "3838 N. Broadway," an entity bearing the name of hotel address. A search of the business on the Illinois Secretary of State website did not reveal information about the business.

Lakeview Action Coalition, which has protested SRO closings in the area, reports that the new owner is Jamie Purcell of BJB Properties. Purcell has purchased a number of other area SROs in recent years, rehabbing them into apartments.

BJB Properties did not respond to a request to comment.

Cappleman, a former social worker, says that the situation in the Chateau has become life-threatening. He said officials recently entered a third of the rooms in the Chateau were shocked by what they saw.

"Upon inspection, they noticed some things that panicked a lot of people," Cappleman said. "There is some criminal activity going on inside the Chateau that has me fearing for the lives of residents."

Cappleman declined to elaborate on what criminal activity was occurring, stating that he feared doing so would prompt copy-cat crimes.

He added, however, that many of the rooms inspected were so full of garbage, that officials could not see the beds.

"It was unimaginable, the kinds of things that we saw," he said.

Denaice Wright, a Chateau tenant, disagrees with that assessment. Wright has lived in the building since May. She concedes that the building had been neglected, but she does not feel unsafe there.

"I wouldn't say the Chateau is a dangerous place, not at all," she said. "I think that's just an excuse to get it closed down."

LAC contends that the SRO closures mean massive losses of affordable housing options in the neighborhood. Recent SRO shutterings in the area have forced some residents to move from one ill-fated building to the next.

"Many of these people have lived in these buildings for years and years," said Sue Gries, an area resident and a leader with LAC.

SROs tend to be cheaper than apartments, come furnished and do not require a security deposit. For some with poor credit or unsteady pay, they are one of the only options for housing in Chicago.

That has been the case for Wright, who was evicted from another apartment nine years ago, making her an unattractive tenant to renters. She moved into the Chateau because it was her only option, she said. Now, she doesn't know where she will go.

"I have no idea," she said. "I just hope I don't end up back in the shelter."

SROs, however, have increasingly faced criticism from area residents. In the case of the Chateau, residents have been complaining for years of unsafe conditions, poor management and crime.

The Chateau is facing hundreds of code violations, and Cappleman said that the new owners say a gut rehab is necessary.

LAC disagrees and wants the building to remain open while repairs are completed. They say that the closure will force tenants into the cold with little notice and that Cappleman could use his power to influence the new owner.

"We're asking for [Ald. Cappleman] to say publicly that the tenants should not be kicked out of their homes in the middle of winter," Gries said.

Cappleman said that residents will not be sent into the cold. He said he arranged for the Department of Family Support Services to contact all the tenants to help them relocate. But the fate of the building is out of his hands, he said.

He believes the Chateau represents a larger problem of inadequate city resources and safe housing for people struggling with addiction and mental illness, many of whom are currently living in SROs.

"We're uncovering a problem throughout the entire city," he said. Cappleman said he would be taking up that issue in his capacity as Alderman.

LAC will protest the Chateau shuttering on Feb. 10 at 1:20 p.m. The march leaves from Wellington Ave. United Church of Christ, 615 W. Wellington.

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