City’s decision to purchase hotel to house homeless upsets residents, businesses

The City of Austin recently voted to purchase the Candlewood Suites on Pecan Park Boulevard for the price of $9.5 million to turn into permanent housing for the homeless.

Residents and business owners FOX 7 Austin spoke to say they're all for housing Austin's homeless but they feel putting them in the Northwest Austin hotel will cause more problems for those already living in the community.

Dozens gathered last week to protest before the hotel was purchased with community members audibly voicing their displeasure as chants of "no to Candlewood" filled the sidewalk. 



"They want to help the people but this is in an inappropriate place," said Sharon Blythe, resident.

Residents and business owners around the hotel are not for this plan and have been fighting against it since they found out it was on the council's agenda. They say it's too close to homes and businesses.

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"We are not saying no to [helping the] homeless, please understand. We are saying why is the city rushing through this? Why is the city not coming to the table to talk to us?" said Rupal Chaudhari, CFO of Hampton Inn and Suites next door.

Residents and business owners have held protests in front of the hotel. There is also a petition with over 3,000 signatures in opposition

Bianca Ramirez, a resident in the neighborhood, says she feels as though their pleas are going unnoticed. "We feel unheard. We feel invisible, and we've had to make the extra effort to protest two times in a row. [Council members] didn't respond to any of our emails or phone calls," said Ramirez.

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The hotel is surrounded by residential homes and sandwiched in between the Hampton Inn and Suites and Freda's Seafood Grille. Freda Chen is the owner of Freda's and says she is frustrated.

"I don't want people to judge the neighborhood around this area that think we don't care. We care. I care about the homeless people here," she said.

She says she’s concerned about being so close to this hotel. "It's only one fence away. it's so close. I just think it is really too close. It's gonna hurt me a lot because I think a lot of people are kind of scared because they don't know what's going on. They're worried about safety," said Chen.

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FOX 7 Austin reached out to Mayor Steve Adler about their concerns:

"I hear the concerns. People should know that Candlewood will be converted into an apartment complex with rent paying tenants. It won’t be a walk in, walk up shelter.  We have people formerly without homes in apartment complexes all over the city, many with vouchers. Motel conversions are the most efficient and cost effective way to do this and it’s done without detrimental neighborhood impact.  I look forward to working with the neighborhood to make sure this is executed well."