The Downtown Austin Alliance fosters public-private partnerships to revitalize and bring more activities to downtown squares, plazas and public spaces. Our parks are extremely underfunded yet crucial to downtown’s vitality and appeal.
Snapshot of Downtown Parks
Downtown Austin is surrounded by a greenbelt of parks. Waller Creek and Shoal Creek form the east and west boundaries. Lady Bird Lake frames downtown to the south, and the State Capitol Grounds provide a connection at the northern part of downtown. The three Historic Squares - Republic, Brush and Wooldridge - provide green space for nearby residents and employees. Pocket parks and plazas, such as the Old Bakery Park, Regents Plaza and City Hall Plaza provide gathering spaces within the the urban fabric. We have a total of 112 acres of dedicated public parkland downtown.
Parks and Open Space Master Plan
The Downtown Austin Parks and Open Space Master Plan provides both a vision and a blueprint to improving our downtown parks. We participated in the City of Austin’s development of this plan for the future of our green spaces. The plan now serves as a guide for establishing park master plans, improvements, policies and partnerships.
The DAA has a partnership with the Austin Parks Foundation and contributes funds to support its efforts towards stewardship and revitalization of downtown parks. We advocate for increased resources and support the efforts of the Austin Parks Foundation, the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Republic Square Partners, Friends of Brush Square and Friends of Wooldridge Square to improve historic downtown squares.
Some of the recent improvements to the downtown squares include a new courtyard at Brush Square installed as part of the Art In Public Places Program; a deck with tables and chairs centered around the historic Auction Oak preservation at Republic Square Park; and a new irrigation system, trees and sod at Wooldridge Square.
Republic Square Public private partnership
In 2012, the DAA, in partnership with the Austin Parks Foundation and the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, funded a study by New Jersey-based firm ETM Associates to look at the feasibility of creating a public-private partnership for the operations and managment of Republic Square. The partnership could serve as a model for the other two downtown squares. This study is being conducted in parallel with the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department's Master Planning process for Republic Square.
The DAA has been a longtime supporter of public initiatives for Waller Creek, including the Waller Creek Tunnel (which broke ground in 2011), the Waller Creek District Master Plan, and most recently the formation of the Waller Creek Conservancy, a public-private partnership with the City of Austin that will oversee the design, planning, fundraising and implementation of the vision. The DAA provided funding to support the Waller Creek Design Competition and supports the Waller Creek Conservancy’s annual operations.
After a year of work by the Parks and Recreation Department to improve the lawn, trees, and historic bandstand, Wooldridge Square celebrated a grand reopening in September 2013. The Downtown Austin Alliance and partners presented the reopening celebration of Wooldridge Square with a weekend of fun family activities.
Since then, regular use of this park has been building with weekly yoga, tai chi, and fitness classes, political events, giant chess, and the addition of a favorite Austin food trailer, Chi'lantro. Austin Parks Foundation has also added permanent tables and chairs for a place to enjoy a bite to eat, play a game, or just sit and relax.
Old Bakery Park
We worked with the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department and the Austin Parks Foundation to create a pilot public-private partnership that allows the proceeds from a food vendor to be collected by the Austin Parks Foundation and reinvested in the park. In partnership with City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Austin Parks Foundation, and AIA Austin we are leading a community planning process to identify and implement an improved design for the Old Bakery Park. We funded the Old Bakery Ideathon, an intitative of AIA Austin to reimagine the Old Bakery Block.
The DAA provides funding and support for downtown parks programming such as Movies in the Park at Republic Square, the Sustainable Food Center’s Farmers’ Market Downtown, the weekly staffing of the Imagination Playground at Republic Square, and other events such as the Midtown Mutt-Minster Dog Show in Brush Square.