The affected Algonquin Apartment towers, 1607 and 1617 E. Hyde Park Blvd., with mechanics' trucks, Jan. 1

Mac Properties says they are nearly done with repair work on two Algonquin Apartments buildings that froze when their transformer failed due to unpermitted electrical work.

The power failure occurred on Friday, Dec. 23, during the sub-zero holiday cold snap, knocking out the two towers’ water, heat and electricity. The buildings were shut down, and 181 tenants were evacuated by the Department of Buildings (DOB) on Saturday evening, Christmas Eve due to a “lack of heat emergency.”

According to the DOB, Mac’s unpermitted electrical work over the summer, which installed dozens of window heating units in 1607 and 1617 E. 50th Place, overwhelmed the utility’s electrical system causing the outage. 

Since then, crews have been working to repair and reopen the buildings, both of which sustained substantial water damage due to many burst pipes. 

According to Mac Director of Community Development Peter Cassel, Mac staff and vendors have been replacing the affected pipes and reinstating the boiler heating system, which the window heating units were intended to replace.

Commonwealth Edison spokeswoman Shannon Breymaier said ComEd is also working with Mac to engineer and upgrade the buildings' service capacity for those window heating units.

As of Monday, Jan. 9, more than a quarter of Algonquin residents have chosen to move into another apartment the company owns or terminate their leases. Cassel said over email that a “significant number of households” have chosen to move into other Mac apartments, while “a handful” have chosen to terminate. Mac is paying moving expenses for tenants who are relocating into other Mac apartments. 

Households that have been staying at local hotels at Mac’s expense since Christmas Eve can remain there until the Algonquin work is done or they move elsewhere.

During repairs Mac maintained security at the buildings, Cassel said, and escorted residents have been able to return briefly to retrieve belongings, assess damage and/or move out.

Once repairs are complete, the DOB will need to inspect the buildings and — if they are in full compliance with municipal code —  lift its vacate order and allow remaining residents to move back in. The DOB is awaiting Mac's notification that they are ready for an inspection.

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