Photos by Gerri Fernández

Resisting Eviction

A building in limbo is housing people during the pandemic, but for how long?

Thirty-second and Kedzie was a place where musicians, vendors, and artists alike came together to learn from, help, and support one another. After the Azteca Mall small business incubator fell through in 2016, due to a combination of mismanagement and big developers eyeing the land adjacent to the former Washburne Trade School site, the existing tenants kept the largely empty building open to anyone who needed the space. 

Band practice rooms, artist work spaces, music and theater lessons, and recording studios were all offered at no charge to community members. It hosted local shows and events to raise money for people in need, like when people fundraised to send aid to Chiapas, Mexico, after a recent earthquake there. The building currently has a donation room, which allows anybody in the community to help themselves to supplies like diapers, food, household items, winter clothes, and blankets, all of which are brought in by volunteers. 

When the pandemic started, work dried up for the musicians, artists, and self-employed people of 32nd and Kedzie, and paying bills became a challenge. So tenants Marcos Hernández, Juan González, Juan Herrera, and Ivan Cruz converted their work areas and studios into living spaces and moved in. Hernández, a mechanic by trade, worked out of the building since 2017 as a means of income. He also taught other people the skill so they too could make a living. 

Prior to the pandemic, the owner of the building, Guillermo Hernandez, passed away. The tenants said they continued paying rent to the Chicago Southwest Development Corporation (CSDC) until their payments were declined, and now they face a possible eviction, which organizers are calling illegal due to the state and nationwide moratorium on residential evictions, currently in effect. A notice of demolition from CSDC was placed on the front gate of the building, giving tenants until November 2, 2020 to vacate the property. But they’ve stayed put.

Saint Anthony Hospital bought the land, but occupants said in a press conference that representatives have not shown them permits for the demolition of the structure. In the beginning, the tenants tried multiple times to talk to American Demolition, the company contracted for the demolition, but when a crew asked to be let in to look around, the tenants said they started pulling things out of the ceiling, destroying the place and ruining a lot of the handyman work the tenants had done around the building. 

People have come by claiming that they are the new owners. But because they can’t produce paperwork or proof of ownership or eviction, they eventually end up leaving when they are not let in. The developer put barricades up, blocking cars from coming and going, which has prevented the tenants from being able to move for work. Tenants say they have been facing harassment from security guards and cops. They have received death threats and demeaned with comments like, “You guys are homeless,” “You need to go to a shelter,” and, “Yall are squatters.” They say the building has been called a drug and gang house.

The tenants continue to organize eviction defenses at 3200 S. Kedzie and are calling on members of the community for support. 

Tenant Juan Gonzalez stands in his living space and home studio. “This is where I help people with their ambitions, their music and their art.”

Chains at the entrance of 3200 S Kedzie st

Tenant Marcos Hernandez - “We can do more, and so we do and that makes my heart happy”

Tenant Marcos Hernandez - “We will fight until our last day here” Tenant Ivan Cruz in his living space at 3200 S Kedzie. When asked about who owns the building and what rights Saint Anthony’s Hospital and American Demolition had, he responded, “really, I don’t know what’s going on.”

6 Comments

  1. What is the desired outcome here? It’s an industrial building that was never zoned for housing in the first place. Nothing about this is a legal dwelling. It’s a walking code infraction. Just because the prior owner bent the rules and did things under the table dosent make it right or entitle you to stay there indefinitely. Then these buildings burn down or show up on the news and everyone asks “why wasn’t this ever addressed? Why was this allowed to happen? Where was the city?” How can you claim you have a defense to stay there? It’s squatting whether you want to admit it or not. An eviction notice isn’t needed when you never had a legal right to the premises in the first place.

    • To speak about legal terms, ask to st Anthony about them. How they want to build a private hospital in this area with public money?
      Ask them how they started a demolition without city permit?
      Why they already have 3100 s kedzie in their plans, without explain this to little village community (because that property belongs to that community)
      Why they never give a notice 3 months before? So they can find another place.
      Whay they don’t show to little village people about all the plans they have for the community showing the gentrification plans they have?
      Why they being a god servers let them stay if St Anthony is on DEBT right now and they don’t have money to start this project.
      Whats bother you if don’t belong to this community??

  2. The many years that I have lived in the Little Village Neighborhood. I have never heard of such a place they claim that was providing for the community neighbors. This sounds very familiar to what people in Mexico and Central America do to claim ownership. They find what seems to be abandoned building and move in to later try to claim ownership due to building been abandoned. It is a very well known practice in Mexico and Central America.

    • Isn’t weird you didn’t know about work community they have been doing. If you don’t know how much money la villita will put in this private project. Ask to you alderman
      He should have answers for you.
      Check focalpoint website, probably you will not see you house anymore with all this plans st anthony have this community,
      Gentrification is all this hospital will bring.

  3. Simply sad. The developers are doing this only because the tenants are Latinx.

    They have no heart. No conscience.

    I bet my bottom dollar this would not occur in Wicker Park. Bucktown or Lincoln Square.

    Just because the tenants live I. A predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, they are being tossed out like trash.

    Where’s the humanity??!!!

    • If there is not heart, There is no humanity,.
      Is only business between politicians and rich people.
      They don’t care about humanity, only they care about money.
      Sad but true.
      This is the perfect example.

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