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City of Austin to implement 24-hour security at Candlewood Suites after break-ins, vandalism

Kelly said the planned homeless housing hotel suffered months of damage. (Mackenzie Kelly)

Austin has added 24-hour security to the city-owned Pecan Gardens property, which will be converted into supportive housing for people exiting homelessness, after the former hotel was found with months of damage and vandalism May 5.

The building, which was broken into and stripped of copper and had people illegally sleeping inside of it, has been secured, Council Member Mackenzie Kelly said in a Friday press conference. Kelly said the city confirmed a measure to implement 24-hour security, including updates every 60 days until the property opens up as supportive housing.

"We cannot let this happen to any vacant city-owned property ever again," Kelly said. "This blatant act of disregard and criminal behavior will not be tolerated in our community."

The city bought the former hotel in August 2021 for $9.5 million with plans to renovate the property into a 78-unit supportive housing property. Those 55 or older that are experiencing chronic homelessness can qualify to live at the site once it is completed in late 2022-early 2023.

While the council was set to discuss a $4 million deal with Family Eldercare to begin converting the property Thursday, Kelly pulled the item for a later executive session due to security concerns. But the council did approve an item to authorize city leaders to begin negotiating other renovation contracts.

"I want to thank my colleagues for pumping the brakes on this contract and realizing that we owe the community not only an apology, but reassurance that the protection of the assets the city owns is vital to the success of achieving our intended goals," Kelly said.

When the building was found vandalized May 5, Kelly, who presides over the district containing the property, said damage included:

  • Damage spanning all three floors of the building and is in nearly every room.
  • The entire hotel was stripped of copper.
  • Destroyed washers, dryers, air conditioners and electrical wiring.
  • People sleeping at the hotel without permission.

On Tuesday, Austin’s Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Gray apologized and said there was no security due to a delay in processing the request.

“The intent had been to have security on site previous to this event,” Gray said. “It had been requested, and there was a delay in the request, so it had not been initiated. We acknowledge that as a failure and apologize.”
Kelly said city staff, the Austin Police Department and the Williamson County Sheriff's Office are investigating what happened at the property and encouraged those who know anything about the investigation to call Crime Stoppers at 512-872-8477.


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