Have you been to any of downtown Austin’s parks recently?
I walk near and around them almost everyday. Yet, they fail to draw me in.
Over the last couple of years, Republic Square Park has received a nice face lift. Smart people and private money ensured the auction oaks are preserved and cared for. Add to that good programming such as the Alamo Drafthouse’s Movies in the Park and the Saturday morning farmers market.
Republic Square is doing the best of the downtown parks. Still, most of the time downtown Austin’s parks are empty. That’s the unfortunate truth.
And, this is the reason:
During the week (daytime) Republic Square Park offers nothing to attract workers, visitors, or residents. It is neither a conduit nor a destination for most people.
Here’s how we fix it.
The intersection of two downtown arteries (W 5th Street @ Guadalupe) is the place of highest visibility for the park. For that reason, the northeast corner of Republic Square Park feels to be the natural “main entrance”. Yet, most of the park’s seating is way over there, in the opposite corner from where most people address the park(!?)
Republic Square Park All Downtown Austin parks can serve more people, more often, by taking a lesson from the Old Bakery at 10th Street @ Congress Ave:
The solution is to embrace concessionaires.
A cafe, taco stand, more seating, and Republic Square Park becomes a daytime amenity for lots of people. If you’ve been to Mariano Park in Chicago then you know this works.
Actually, we only need to look a few blocks away for a success story. La Boite Cafe at the Old Bakery is a perfect example of concessionaire transforming a park.
Prior to La Boite opening up in the Old Bakery site (which is a downtown park), that “park” contributed nothing more than being adjacent to a neat old building. Now, this park occupies a space in my brain as a place I could go… that I’d want to visit… in the morning… on a work day.
I bet La Boite could place another of their modern container-cafes in Republic Square Park and make an incredible business. Convert a couple of parking spots running parallel to the park to 15 minute customer service spaces. Then there’s even more opportunity to attract people into the park.
Again, the solution to attracting lots of people into downtown parks is to embrace concessionaires.
A single well planned concessionaire offers us something to do… something to eat… an opportunity to sit/relax amongst other random people. Concessionaires can complement their surroundings. They contribute to safety (or the feeling of safety, which is arguably more important towards activating the park).
What do you think? PARD is hosting an input session on July 19th.
Share Your Ideas for Republic Square Park
When: Thursday, July 19th at 6p.m.
Where: Ballet Austin, 501 West 3rd Street
Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) and their team of consultants are hosting a meeting to explore several alternatives for improvements to Republic Square Park. This small downtown park serves the needs of downtown residents and employees and is host to many signature events such as the SFC Farmers’ Market and Movies in the Park. The consultants will present alternatives for the park based on feedback from community and stakeholder meetings in April and May, as well as an online survey. Alternatives will address the design of the park as well as ongoing operations and management.
Parking: Metered parking is available in the vicinity of Ballet Austin. Limited parking is also available on a first-come first serve basis at State Garage L at 333 Guadalupe Street (4th & Guadalupe). Tell the attendant you are attending the Republic Square Community Meeting.