After months of anticipation and hard work, Austin's first street patio at Royal Blue Grocery on Congress Avenue is now open. Street patios are an exciting urban design tool where street parking spaces are converted into café seating space. These kinds of spaces are popping up in many cities across the country as a way to activate a streetscape and make it a destination for people, increasing foot traffic on the street. Under the leadership of Council Member Chris Riley, Austin City Council approved a pilot program in March 2012 to allow for this innovative project. The city plans to watch this pilot for approximately one year to inform a permanent program. A permanent program would allow more businesses to create their own street patios in other qualified parking spaces around town.
The two parking spaces at 609 Congress are estimated to have housed about five cars per day total. If this street patio performs as successfully as the ones in other cities have, that space will be opened up to hundreds of people to use each day. Active, interesting streets are safer for all road users and are good for all of the businesses along them. For this reason, the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA) identified improving the 'Pedestrian Experience' as one of the six most important steps to achieving the vision of Congress Avenue. George Scariano, co-owner of Royal Blue said, "The public response to the patio has been phenomenal, from our regular clientele to this past weekend's visitors. We are thrilled to have the support and creativity of the Downtown Austin Alliance, local Urban Landscape Architecture firm dwg, and Civil Engineer Big Red Dog on this exciting new project."