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Austin Scraps Plan For Convention Center 'Mega-Shelter'

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Austin Price
/
KUT
Members of the Red Cross and other volunteers prepare the Austin Convention Center to welcome thousands of incoming Hurricane Harvey evacuees.

The Austin City Council has scrapped plans for a mega-shelter at the Austin Convention Center to house evacuees from Hurricane Harvey. The council instead voted today on a lease for a vacant office building at 7000 Metropolis Drive in Southeast Austin to house evacuees.

The city had been expecting as many as 7,000 people, but was told today that the projected number has dropped to between 1,500 and 2,000. They are expected to arrive within the next seven to 10 days.

While the council approved the lease on a unanimous vote, some councilmembers expressed concern about the shelter's relatively remote location, pointing out that there is not much nearby. Staff suggested the new site's large parking lot and proximity to the airport make it a better location than the downtown convention center.

“This is really creating a city within a city and we want them to have access into the City of Austin and other areas," said Juan Ortiz, is the city’s director of homeland security and emergency management. "So we want to make sure that we address that island perception and make sure that we reduce that as much as we possibly can and ensure that they have a good quality of life while they’re here in the mega-shelter.”

Staff did admit that the impact on businesses around the convention center factored into the decision to move the shelter.

The state will reimburse the city for the cost of the shelter.

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