AUSTIN (KXAN) - For the second day in a row, glass panels have fallen from the side of the W Hotel in Downtown Austin.
Just after 5 p.m., three more panels fell onto the street below, from the south side of the structure.
"We were just looking for some place to eat and we heard shattered glass and looked up. Of course we saw all the video cameras and what not wondering what was going on. And then we found out for ourselves that the glass fell off the side of the building," said Duke Clements.
Clements and his son had just arrived in town from Washington D.C.
"It was a bit of a shock to see that," he said.
Others crowded around the various corners of Lavaca and Second streets, wondering if more glass would fall.
"We weren't expecting that at all," said Kathy O'Brien who's visiting town for a conference. "When they said, 'Keep Austin Weird,' I didn't know it would be from buildings falling apart."
Just before 6 p.m., hotel officials said the W Hotel is being closed indefinitely.
And around 8 p.m. guests, with luggage in hand, began trickling out of the east side of the building, loading in taxis and cars.
"We had to relocate to another hotel. To the Sheraton," said Maria Persico who was in town on business. "Kind of an inconvenience? A little bit."
Other guests are also being transported to the Hyatt. A plan is still being developed, however, for the residence that live on the top floors of the W. No word as of yet if they will be able to stay, or if they will eventually have to evacuate as well while crews start replacing nearly 1,000 glass balcony panels.
All those glass panels should be removed within a week. During that work, traffic lanes on Guadalupe and Lavaca streets will be reduced. And Third street north of the hotel will be closed completely.
Sidewalks were also closed around the hotel until workers construct covered pedestrian walkways.
"We're committed to taking every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of our residence," said Austin City Manager Marc Ott.
City transportation crews began pulling down parking signs and covering up parking meters around the hotel around 9 p.m.
Police cordoned off three lanes of traffic near the hotel for the safety of the public. The city of Austin has closed streets as follows, until further notice:
- the west lane of Lavaca Street between Second Street and Third Street
- the south lane of Third Street between Lavaca Street and Guadalupe Street
- the east lane of Guadalupe Street between Second Street and Third Street
Beau Armstrong, who heads the management company that runs the W, said that all guests will be evacuated tonight.
A guest said that they are being moved to the Hyatt Regency Austin.
"This is a very devastating thing for us," said Armstrong, CEO of Stratus Properties. He said he has been in contact with several engineers and has been unable to determine the cause of the falling glass.
The ACL Live Moody Theater is located inside the W Hotel and several events are scheduled there over the next few weeks. Wednesday evening's "Wine Down Wednesday" event has been canceled. The band, The Trishas, was scheduled to perform. The fate of all future events remains to be determined.
The televison program, Austin City Limits, is taped in the theater, produced by Austin PBS station KLRU.
"The next taping is in July and I'm sure, I have full faith in the W staff that they'll correct the problems that have already happened," said KLRU sound engineer, Kevin Cochran, who works on the show. "As a person who works there -- if safety were an issue -- I wouldn't be working there."
On Monday, panels crashed onto cars parked on Third Street.
Meanwhile, earlier Tuesday a lawsuit was filed against the W Hotel by a couple who were injured on June 10 when panes of glass fell into the hotel's pool area from 23 floors above.
Beau Armstrong, CEO Stratus Properties, gave an update on Tuesday evening on the hotel's plan to fix the glass.
Today as you know, another glass balcony panel at the W Austin building shattered in place and fell, breaking two panels directly below, and sending glass into the pool area, which was closed. The entire team here at the W couldn't be more devastated that this has occurred, but unfortunately after consulting with numerous experts we still do not know why this has happened.
So here's what we're doing. We are replacing every piece of balcony glass on the building. To do this safely we are working with the City to:
1. Shut down several lanes of traffic around 3 sides of the building. This will mean some delays on Lavaca, Third and Guadalupe until the panels on those sides of the building can be removed. We apologize for any inconvenience but our first priority is public safety.
2. Close the sidewalks entirely around the building until protective pedestrian walkways are installed.
We are also working to relocate current and future hotel guests, and closing the hotel until further notice. We'd like to thank our local hotel partners in advance for welcoming our guests and
helping us during this difficult time.
We have experts and the City of Austin on site to ensure this work is done safely and as expeditiously as possible. Safety is our top priority.
Again, the entire team is devastated by these incidents, and we apologize to our hotel guests, our residents, our neighbors, and to the City. We will make this right.
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