W Hotel reopens amid investigation of falling glass panels

Syeda Hasan

The W Hotel reopened its doors Saturday morning after glass panels fell from the building’s windows which forced the hotel to shut down for several days.

Hotel officials removed all glass balcony panels from the building following three instances of glass falling from the W and shattering on five parked cars and on the street in the past few weeks. The hotel has installed temporary wood panels on its balconies while building engineers seek a safer alternative to the glass panels.

Drew McQuade, general manager of the W Austin Hotel, said in a press release officials are still investigating the cause of the broken glass panels.

“We express our sincere gratitude to the community for your patience and understanding over the last week,” McQuade said. “We also thank our local hotel partners for graciously accepting our guests, and [we thank] our residents, neighbors and the city of Austin for their cooperation during this difficult time.”

According to the press release, W Hotel officials were awaiting approval on their temporary replacement panels from the city of Austin before reopening the hotel’s guest rooms, bars and restaurant Saturday.

The Austin American-Statesman reported four people were injured when two of the glass panels shattered and fell near the hotel’s pool area on June 10. Two of the people who were injured filed a lawsuit against the hotel over the incident. Austin attorney Randy Howry will represent the injured people in the suit against the W Hotel’s parent company, Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Howry is accusing W officials of negligence and said his clients suffered cuts, bruises and injuries that required stitches from the falling glass.

Austin resident Stacy Cruz said she was concerned about safety issues at the W when she heard about the original glass panels falling, but she plans on enjoying the hotel’s facilities again now that the replacement panels have been approved.

“I think the W has been a very fun and popular addition to our city,” Cruz said. “It’s unfortunate to see that there seems to have been some flaws in the design, but I really think it’s a fantastic place and I am looking forward to visiting again.”

City officials should see the incident at the W Hotel as an opportunity to review and strengthen building safety regulations, said Austin resident Joseph Young.

“These are issues that need to be addressed before something like this happens, because it’s just not acceptable to be putting people in danger,” Young said. “The safety of the residents of Austin and the people who visit the city is what is
most important.”