Wooldridge Square Park Is Getting A Facelift

Wooldridge Square Park Is Getting A Facelift

Wooldridge Square Park is closed for the next year, or so, as it receives improvements to the irrigation and landscaping.

Amidst a sea of bureaucratic bunk houses, a Malaise Era parking garage, a jail, and a drive-thru Bank of America, the park’s central gazebo and the close Austin History center can still conjure up memories of a shaded and serene sloped park hill.

Wooldridge Square was a part of the original plans for the City of Austin as laid out by Edwin Waller in 1839. It became a dedicated park in 1909 when then-Mayor Wooldridge cleared and drained the site for civic green space. The gazebo in the center of the park was added in 1910 and has a rich history of political speeches and gatherings for State, County and City officials.

The park is recently best known for hosting giant chess, and being the defacto setup for Mobile Loaves & Fishes, which helps feed Austin’s homeless population.

A couple of months ago, I headed over to play giant chess in the evening.  Very enjoyable.  No safety concerns, personally, but it’s clear that vagrancy keeps the masses at a distance.

If Wooldridge’s challenges can be distilled into three buckets, below is how I would describe them:

1) no surrounding pedestrian-oriented uses (attraction)
2) vagrancy (perception of safety)
3) poor/no irrigation (placemaking, grass)

Within a year, the irrigation should be improved.  I understand that alternative placement or better coordination with MLF is being discussed. There’s a higher and better use for that parking garage and Bank of America, and those will eventually be replaced.

This is progress.

Fishing Pier Coming to Lady Bird Lake in Rainey Street, Downtown Austin

Fishing Pier Coming to Lady Bird Lake in Rainey Street, Downtown Austin

The focus is on inclusion.  That’s what Nicole Harmon of Core Health Foundation, a non-profit spin-off of Core Health (a for-profit facility focusing on rehabilitation of those suffering with brain injuries), tells me. The project is a fishing pier, located on the northern shore of Lady Bird Lake, just south of the Holiday Inn off I-35 in the Rainey Street District.  The project has been in the works for over 8-years, but was officially approved in 2010, and construction is expected to be complete in 2013.   And while the driver and primary purpose of this project is for [Read more…]

O. Henry Pun Off at Brush Square Park in Downtown Austin May 19th

O. Henry Pun Off at Brush Square Park in Downtown Austin May 19th

Yes. Yes, O. yes.  It’s that time again, folks.  Time for the 35th annual O. Henry Pun Off.  Taking place this Saturday (May 19th, 2012) at the O. Henry Museum (adjacent to Brush Square), this delightful competition celebrates the pun with two separate competitions – Punniest in Show and Punslingers.

However, a video is worth a million words – so, check out some of these punny finals videos from previous years: [Read more…]

Street Patio Experiment: Congress Ave @ Royal Blue Grocery

Street Patio Experiment: Congress Ave @ Royal Blue Grocery

I love this idea for downtown Austin.  Convert two duck-in parking spaces in front of Royal Blue Grocery on Congress Ave, in order to improve the pedestrian experience and create a retail destination.

“Street patios” have been implemented before in other cities, successfully, under the badge of “parklet” or “pop-up” cafe.

Upon approval by Council, later this month, the initiative would be a partnership between the City of Austin and Royal Blue Grocery, with design coming from Studio DWG and civil engineering firm Big Red Dog.

The street patio in front of Royal Blue Grocery is just a trial run.  If successful we could see more street patios in other parts of downtown.  The results should provide more space for pedestrians and a cafe sitting area, similar to Jos on 2nd Street.  WIN!

More pics after the jump.   [Read more…]