Humans require some green space. Gathering spaces that are shared by everyone. Parks are integral to keeping a vibrant urban cores.
There is research to back it up, too. Being next to a good public park can enhance property value in urban areas. One report, Real Value: The Parks Premium, written by John Crompton, professor at Texas A&M, states:
The real estate market consistently demonstrates that many people are willing to pay a larger amount for a property located close to parks and open space areas…
This particular report is from 2000, and back when it was written, there weren’t many other examples of high-rises near public parks aside from the Nokonah, located not only adjacent to Shoal Creek, but also in the midst of a booming retail / commercial district on Lamar. But now, several downtown Austin condos for sale are located near parks: The Shore Condos, The Milago condos, the Villas on Town Lake, and 360 Condos are some examples.
Bottom line is that downtown Austin has some great green space, and not only do many of these parks offer programming that all can enjoy, but they are great public, open places that are a wonderful complement to the dense development occurring in downtown Austin. These parks are not only wonderful spots to bring a blanket and a book and simply unwind, but are also part of the complex economic fabric that makes Downtown Austin an in-demand place to live.
Downtown has several municipal parks within it’s borders:
Republic Square Park | 422 Guadalupe St. | 1.75 Acres
This is probably downtown Austin’s best known park, sitting adjacent to the Plaza Lofts, and host to a variety of programmed events, including a weekly Farmer’s Market put on by the Sustainable Food Center each Saturday morning from 9am-1pm. The Austin Parks Foundation also hosts Movies in the Park at Republic Square Park.
Historic Squares Leadership Team, a partnership between the City of Austin, Downtown Austin Alliance, and the Austin Parks Foundation, has recently formed in order to do some capital improvements to the park and foster a future of robust programming and operations management for the green space.
Below is a rendering of the currently preferred Concept Plan for the park’s re-design:
Not too very long ago, Jude wrote an op-ed about the proposed Travis County Courthouse, currently proposed to border the park to south.
Wooldridge Square | 900 Guadalupe St. | 1.73 Acres
Wooldridge Square has also been getting a fair amount of attention the last couple of years. This historic site (it was one of the four original downtown Austin parks) has a bandstand / gazebo that is used for events held on the site.
The site had often been called a “magnet for the homeless” and went under extensive renovations in 2013, capped off by a schedule of aggressive re-opening programming, intended to diversity the public use of the space.
Current programming at this site includes Movies in the Park, Yoga in the Park, and Giant Chess.
Duncan Park | 900 W 9th St. | 5.11 Acres
Duncan Park is one of the coolest parks downtown, in my opinion. The park plays host to a volunteer built and managed BMX bicycle track and the people watching is pretty amazing. I strongly encourage taking a picnic lunch and a book and just camping out for a couple of hours to watch some astounding BMX tricks.
Here’s an amateur video of some of the track.
Brush Square | 500 E 12th St. | 1.75 Acres
Situated near the 5 Fifty-Five condos in downtown Austin, Brush Square is probably best known for hosting the annual O. Henry Pun Off. Check out some past videos from this very punny event.
Waterloo Neighborhood Park | 500 E 12th St. | 10 Acres
Waterloo Park, named after the town that preceded Austin on the same site, borders Waller Creek close to Austin’s downtown. The limestone embankments of the creek are picturesquely entwined with parts of Waller Creek Trail.
The park is currently under construction related to the Waller Creek redevelopment.
Before moving to Auditorium Shores, Fun Fun Fun Fest was held in this park. Wayyyy back in 2009, I wrote a fantastically Fun Fun Fun story using band names from that years’ line-up (this is one of my very favorite posts to have ever authored, by the way).
The Austin Recreation Center | 1301 Shoal Creek Blvd. | 5.48 Acres
The center at 1301 Shoal Creek is Austin’s oldest recreation center, and is home to several sports leagues (adult kickball and volleyball). It also has a skate park / bowl.
Palm Park | 711 East 3rd St. | 2 Acres
Quite honestly, I feel that this is downtown Austin’s most disappointing park. It faces into I-35 and doesn’t currently have much to offer. It also has this real gross pool that doesn’t have filtration system (so it has be refilled with each use). Some groups have begun to adopt the space for programming, however (most notably, Waller Creek Conservancy for it’s very successful Waller Park picnic series).
Old Bakery and Emporium Park | 1006 Congress Ave
This is really considered more of a museum type space than park, but I love the intimate feel of the outdoor space at 1006 Congress Avenue.
Located in the Rainey Street district of downtown Austin, this “park” is adjacent to Lady Bird lake and used by residents of The Shore Condos, The Milago, and others. It’s a great resource for condo dwellers in the neighborhood and you can often see folks playing with their pups or their children here.
I also consider the Texas State Capitol Grounds to be downtown park land, but that’s, of course, not managed by the City.
Related: Interested in how other types of public spaces interact with the communities that surround them? Check out our semi-related post on urban cemeteries.