CHICAGO — Residents in several buildings at an apartment complex in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood have been out of their homes for days following a total electrical outage.
“I’m not sure what today’s going to bring, I’m not sure what tomorrow’s going to bring,” one resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told WGN.
The concerned resident said it was before noon on Friday when the power went out at three buildings at The Algonquin.
“I ended up calling Mac Properties and they told me, you know, a lot of people are calling in about the same thing, so I thought, okay, it’s not just me. It will be back up soon,” said the resident. “It was a couple hours, still no sign, so I called them back and they said they were working on it. Temperatures started to drop.”
According to the resident, he was provided several expected times of restoration, and he decided to stick it out for the night so his pets weren’t alone.
“I thought, okay, it’s only until tonight. So, I just put on some blankets, got real cozy, and tried to wait it out,” he said. “Around midnight, I think, we ended up calling Mac again and I was informed it could last until 4 a.m.”
“I ended up falling asleep that night with I think four sets of blankets on me with a candle lit like four inches from my face trying to keep warm,” he added.
Several residents told WGN they had already booked hotels before signs went up on the doors Saturday, notifying tenants that the city deemed two of the buildings unsafe and evacuated everyone living there.
“The building has been ordered closed by the city of Chicago due to code violations that threaten life, safety, or health pursuant to section 14-3-307 of the Chicago construction codes,” the signs read.
Many tenants, including the resident who asked to remain anonymous, said they have been in a hotel since Saturday, as questions on what the future of their housing situation holds, continue to loom.
As of Wednesday evening, management with Mac Properties had not responded to WGN’s request for comment on the situation.
According to a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB), the properties located at 1617 East 50th Place and 1607 East Hyde Park Boulevard experienced a total electrical power outage Friday.
It was more than 24 hours later — on Saturday afternoon — when the city was first made aware of the outage and immediately responded, officials confirmed.
“Life safety issues are always the top priority of the Department of Buildings (DOB). Our thoughts are with those impacted and displaced by these outages,” said a spokesperson for the DOB.
The agency said it alerted other city departments and the Salvation Army to assist residents. According to the DOB, there was an effort by ComEd to replace the electrical infrastructure that supplied power to the two buildings.
“Unfortunately, the power demand coming from the buildings was higher than what ComEd could supply at the time,” said a DOB spokesperson.
The Chicago Fire Department told WGN the DOB went into action immediately, among other things, and requested the fire department to respond to the emergency. CFD said it verified the buildings’ temperatures were below freezing Saturday afternoon.
“We had to check apartments for people in distress or even worse. We asked for management assistance for master keys and were told they had to be found at another location. The best estimate they could give was several hours to get the keys back to the building,” a spokesperson for CFD confirmed.
CFD said with temperatures that low and for the length of time the situation had already been allowed to progress before the city was notified, they took emergency action to conduct a full evaluation of the tenants.
“We did force open dozens of doors. In most of these apartments we were able to use a tool that allows entry without doing damage to the door, but in some cases, doors sustained minor damage,” a CFD spokesperson shared with WGN.
Both CFD and the DOB said they worked with residents to move people to a safe, warm location. CFD notified the Chicago Police Department and management of the forced doors, they said.
Some residents told WGN they aren’t necessarily concerned about the damage to their apartment entryways, but they’re worried it could delay when they are able to get back in their units, since the only way they’re currently able to do so, is to be escorted by security during certain hours.
Some residents said the lack of power, heat, water, and damaged doors hasn’t been the only problems they’ve encountered.
“A bunch of people were in their units yesterday and people started to notice that the radiators in their units had exploded,” said the anonymous resident.
One resident shared a photo with WGN of an unknown dark substance she found around her radiator Wednesday afternoon. She said she is concerned about the health risks that could be associated with the mess.
Although property management has not responded to WGN, we obtained an email sent Wednesday to residents.
It reads, in part:
“Please see the following important update regarding your home. The great news is that power has been restored in the building.
We are still working on the heating system in your building as well as the damaged doors due to the City of Chicago evacuating the building. Your apartment door has been secured with a temporary lock. As of now, the plan is that you will return home by 12/30/2022, we will update you if this date changes.”
The letter also informed residents that individuals staying in hotels provided by Mac Properties have had their reservations extended until Dec. 30.
“Please enjoy the holiday. We apologize for the inconvenience of this situation. Thank you for your patience and understanding,” read the email.
Some residents told WGN they’re not getting their hopes up the date will stick.
While management said power has been restored, the DOB said there is still work to be done before residents are able to safely return to living in their homes.
The DOB said it is working with the property owner, who must hire an electrical engineer and an electrical contractor to assist the buildings’ needs and correct the problems.
“DOB will also work with the property owner and its contractor to expedite obtaining the required electrical permits. They must work with ComEd on a solution for the replacement of the electrical infrastructure, so that it can safely meet the power demands of the buildings. Only after that work is completed and verified by DOB inspectors can power be restored to the two buildings,” said the department.
The DOB told WGN once the property owner completes the steps needed, the buildings can be safely reoccupied. Until then, social service agencies are assisting tenants with relocation.