KENWOOD — The owner of a struggling affordable apartment building in the South End will bring in new management after more than a year of denial, and residents say they cautiously hope the move will improve their living conditions.

5T management — who city prosecutors have praised for his experience managing troubled buildings — will take over starting Friday morning at the Ellis Lakeview Apartments, 4624 S. Ellis Ave. at Kenwood.

5T is responsible for fixing many problems related to building security, plumbing, roof, elevators, missing smoke detectors, emergency lighting, drywall, windows, apartment vacant lot contaminated with asbestos and more.

The company will replace Integra Affordable Management, which oversaw the building in the event of failure 27 municipal inspections and 158 code violations accrued.

Ellis Lakeview owner Apex Chicago IL must retire Integra in favor of 5T, Cook County Judge Lisa Marino said Thursday. As a result, city prosecutors dropped their petition to put the building into receivership, which would have brought in a third party to take possession and oversee necessary repairs.

The city can still press for receivership if Apex violates its agreement with 5T, according to a draft court order presented at Thursday’s hearing.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development demanded Integra’s removal 15 months ago, citing the company’s failure to provide “decent, safe and healthy housing”, but Apex refused. Federal housing officials also cited Integra for its poor management of finances and tenant records.

Some Ellis Lakeview residents, who have been organizing for better living conditions since September 2020, listened to more than eight hours of court hearings last week as well as Thursday’s two-hour hearing.

Although residents said they would wait to see 5T’s work before claiming full success, this week they celebrated “a victory by having a stable management company” take over.

Ashley Salibellas lives in a first-floor apartment, where she suffered suspected water and mold damage. Integra retaliated against her in 2020 for complaining to the city about denying her an entry key to the building’s parking lot, she said at the time.

Salibellas attended all four virtual hearings in the past two weeks, even as she struggled with technological issues connecting to a hearing from a city bus, and tending to her daughter’s needs for another .

Those interruptions meant Salibellas missed the discussion about 5T’s ability to handle Ellis Lakeview — but either way, “the expulsion of Integra is a good thing,” she said.

“I don’t know what is [5T’s] reputation on things, but I pray they are better than Integra,” Salibellas said.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Eric Sirota, an attorney at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, stands with tenants and tenant advocates outside the Ellis Lakeview building during a rally in March 2021.

One resident, Karen, who asked Block Club to use only her first name, said she was “very anxious and excited about the changes”.

Karen complained of a broken elevator, trash piled up multiple floors, and vermin infestations in 2020. Now she worries about building safety, unfinished repairs, and suspected mold in her apartment.

5T has presented an action plan that Karen believes will address her concerns and those of her neighbors, she said.

“Honestly, I feel like things are going to get better,” Karen said. 5T seems “to be a professional and experienced company in the transformation of buildings”.

Karen has attended all four recent hearings despite starting a new job; she had to “have an AirPod in one ear” to listen to audiences while doing work tasks at the same time, she said.

Despite Karen’s hope, she slammed the months of receivership hearings dating back to August as “an up and down roller coaster”.

At times, Karen felt “disrespectful and powerless”, believing that the arguments of the lawyers had more influence than the input of the residents who had to live with the building’s often dangerous conditions, he said. she stated.

“I didn’t realize the system was so messed up,” Karen said.

Karen and Salibellas said they will remain active with the Ellis Lakeview Tenants’ Association whether or not 5T resolves the long list of issues with the building.

If 5T restores the building to good condition, “I plan to remain a member so [Apex knows] I am part of something bigger than me,” Salibellas said.

Salibellas urged other tenants living in squalid conditions to “fight, fight, fight, because in the end it will be a victory,” she said.

“We have come this far thanks to our organization – our constant sending [housing organizers] photos and our constant pursuit of national housing compliance,” Salibellas said. “We got this far, not because of the management, but because we said enough was enough.”

If Apex or 5T prove not up to the task of restoring Ellis Lakeview, they can expect a continued struggle from residents, Karen said.

“We don’t settle for anything,” Karen said. “We deserve decent housing.

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