ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Passing through East Highway 80, it’s hard to miss that pink abandoned building, once known as the “Abilene Hotel.” That Key City eyesore could soon be used to help Big Country Veterans as housing for an extended period of time.
The Abilene Hotel was built in 1972 and back in June of 2021, it was deemed unfit for use due to a trend in break-ins and destruction.
“They started stealing copper, taking all the air conditioners, breaking windows, and we continued to border it up once we got notified,” current owner Jack Lieberman listed.
Now, 49 years later, renovations for this building have began. The renovation plan includes a laundry mat, convenience store, and an urgent care center where the hotel’s central office stands. Additionally, sessions of counseling, geared toward Veterans’ common battles with headspace and identity.
“We’re going through the process right now with the V.A. (Veterans Administration), and looking at the building to do an extended stay center for Veterans,” said Lieberman.
Lieberman first approached Abilene’s Board of Building Standards, informing them of a new potential buyer, Brian Meslin. Meslin set his sights on doing more than just providing for our Veterans.
“These guys have PTSD, disabilities,” Meslin began, “and if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have the freedom that we have.”
Meslin is in partnership with an organization called The Rise As One Foundation, a nonprofit specializing in care for those who have served the country.
“I think, ultimately, they’re the ones that we need to give back to first. We’ll find out what these guys are passionate about, and then we’re just going to support them,” Meslin said. “As long as they’re doing the work, we’ll support them to getting to where they want to be.”
With this two-story hotel having 80+ units, Meslin said this space is more than fitting for housing our heroes.
“We’re not just giving them a roof over their heads,” Meslin continued. “We’re going to be giving them mindset training, job training… Anyone that’s been in our program for over a year with a business capacity, we’ll help them start businesses.”
President and founder of the nonprofit, Joseph Schirmer, listed their goal as helping Vets become more productive in society.
“I truly believe that there’s a lot of people falling through the cracks because they don’t have the amount of people in their lives that should be helping them,” said Schirmer.
Once heard that the Abilene’s Board of Building Standards was open to what they are planning to do, Schirmer said he looks at this project, now, as a mission.
“I am absolutely honored and privileged to get to do this work and looking forward to coming to Abilene, to see what we can do to revitalize that entire city,” Schirmer gleamed.
With the help of the foundation and the City of Abilene, Meslin said, together our Veteran’s lives can completely transform.
“People need to know that they can do it and they don’t have to do it alone,” Meslin pressed. “We’re here to give a hand up not a handout. If they don’t do the work, they’re out of the program.”
The board passed the motion to allow them to obtain a permit, as well as a plan of action that will include a time frame and cost of repairs.