Recent drama at the Cass Corridor’s Blackstone Hotel finally may be dying down.
The decrepit building’s new owner, Scott Lowell, settled with 16 residents as their lawsuit against him headed to court last week. Lowell agreed to give residents until Dec. 1 to leave the historic hangout for pimps, hookers and folks who are down on their luck. After that, he will act to evict them. He also agreed to pay a total of $2,000 in damages, which comes to $125 per resident who sued.
Through their lawyer from the Legal Aid and Defender Association the residents had claimed that Lowell interfered with their tenancy by not giving proper notice to vacate the building. Originally, he gave them a little more than a day, but then extended the get-out date by 30 days. Residents also accused him of turning off the heat and hot water, though Lowell contends he never turned off the utilities and only shut down the boiler because it was a safety hazard.
“I absolutely, categorically refute and deny all the charges,” says Lowell, who expressed relief that the case is over.
His lawyer, Sean Kowalski, says considering he makes $250 an hour to represent Lowell, “it made financial sense” to settle. “Still, our continued fear, and it still is, is that someone is going to get hurt in that building. And then we’re going to have real problems.”
The lawyer for the Blackstone residents, Robert Day, says Lowell has already paid out the settlement money. Day hopes the sum helps people with the move. The housing market for folks who can only afford $300 monthly rent, which is what people paid at the Blackstone, is virtually nonexistent. In addition, Day says the waiting list for public housing is so long officials aren’t even taking applications. “I think it’s a good thing that they got enough time to make some plans and move with some dignity,” Day says of the residents. “There’s such a limited number of options for people in this situation. Housing for real poor folks just isn’t there.”Lisa M. Collins contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]