During its 1950s heydays the former Sutherland Hotel on the South Side entertained Black jazz greats John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie as regular guests.
During its 1950s heydays the former Sutherland Hotel on the South Side entertained Black jazz greats John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie as regular guests. But these days its guests are Black, low-income families. Leroy Bowers, 62, has been a resident at the 154-unit Sutherland apartment building, 4659 S. Drexel Blvd., since 1993. “I remember when this building was ‘the’ hotel to stay at on the South Side for Blacks,” Bowers recalls. “But now it is one of the few places people would be caught dead living in because of the deteriorating living conditions.” Come Oct. 31 Bowers and 42 other households must vacate the building while it undergoes a major redevelopment following its sale in July. But moving is not the problem for most of the residents. The problem for them is saving enough money to move in the next 60 days. “It takes time to move. You have to save your money, find a place and then get approved. That is difficult to do when you live check-to-check and must still pay rent,” Bowers said. “When Antheus Capital first bought the building from Heartland the new owner told us (the tenants) we had 30 days to move out or face eviction. But now they are saying we can stay until next month. Yeah right.” Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights sold the building to Antheus for $2.7 million, according to Peter Cassell, director of Community Development for Mac Property Management, which now manages the Sutherland and a dozen more apartment buildings in the Bronzeville and Hyde Park communities. Cassell disputes Bowers’ claim that tenants are having a hard time moving because they cannot save enough money while also paying rent. “Tenants were refunded their original security deposit by Heartland in July and $150,000 has been set aside to fund our relocation assistance plan, so I disagree that tenants are having a hard time moving,” Cassell told the Defender. He added that the relocation assistance to tenants includes paying for some moving expenses such as fees incurred to transfer utility, phone or cable services; application fees and help with security deposits. In a recent letter to tenants MAC Properties stated: “In an effort to further support your relocation, MAC Property Management is offering to refund August rent to any resident in good standing that paid August rent and vacates the building prior to Oct. 31, 2010.” According to Cassell, only eight people paid August rent as of last week. For those tenants who did not pay the month’s rent Cassell said it not only filed a five-day notice but also filed an eviction order with the Cook County Sheriff’s office. “However, as long as tenants remain in good standing, MAC Properties will not enforce the eviction order,” said Cassell. Filing five-day notices and starting eviction procedures are of great concern to the Kenwood/Oakland Community Organization in Chicago. “What prospective landlord will want to rent to anyone who has a current five-day notice or eviction filed against them?” said Brian Malone, housing organizer for the Kenwood/Oakland Community Organization. “This just makes it more difficult for a tenant to secure adequate housing.” Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, whose 4th Ward includes the Sutherland Building, said if tenants are not paying their rent they should not be surprised if a landlord files an eviction. “It is my understanding that not all tenants paid their rent for August and there is no reason to stop paying rent when the Heartland Alliance is providing free relocation assistance,” Preckwinkle said. “I am confident in the end everyone will be relocated. The building is in terrible shape and needs a total gut rehab and I support the redevelopment of the building.” Cassell said 30 percent of the 104 units it plans to have available once the redevelopment is completed in spring 2012 would be affordable housing units. Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender Photo Caption: Bowers stands with another tenant outside the Sutherland Building at 4659 S. Drexel Bld. (Defender/Worsom Robinson)