One of downtown Austin’s most cherished parks is Republic Square, located between 4th and 5th streets, just west of the Plaza Lofts. The park has been under construction, recently getting a much needed face lift. Charlie McCabe, director of the Austin Parks Foundation, visited with DANA yesterday to discuss the progress of the park’s improvements, and to share a bit of history.
Did you know this is where Edwin Waller, the first Mayor of Austin and the namesake of Waller Creek, in 1839 held the original land auction for Austin’s downtown blocks?
“…city lots were auctioned under the shade of the live oak trees on what is now called Republic Square. A small grove of live oaks – known as the Auction Oaks – survive at the southwest corner of the square today.”
The focal point of the park is a 300 year old oak tree. Considering this was a parking lot for decades, with asphalt up to the tree, it’s astonishing these trees have survived so long. The new design by TBG Partners gives the tree breathing space with a raised ipe wood deck built around the tree.
Other changes to the park include leveling the berms – the raised artificial grass hills – which limited visibility into the park. Republic Square will actually grow by 17′ to the west, as San Antonio St becomes a promenade in front of the stairs to the still-under-construction Federal Courthouse. Beginning in January, when the phase one improvements are complete, the Austin Farmers Market will relocated into the park.
The Austin Parks Foundation works diligently to raise money for Austin parks. The $450,000 improvement budget comes from the Austin City Limits music festival, Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association, Downtown Austin Alliance, General Services Administration, Gables Apartments, and others.