Republic Square Park

If you frequent Austin’s downtown, you may have noticed that Republic Square Park – bordered by Guadalupe and San Antonio Street to the east and west, and West 5th and West 4th Street to the north and south – is currently closed to the public. This is due to two major construction projects: the installation of a new reclaimed water line through the center of the park from 4th to 5th Street, followed by a complete renovation of the park, scheduled to be completed in spring 2017. The upgrades represent the fruition of a long-tim vision of revitalizing this significant downtown historic landmark and creating a beautiful public gathering place for Austin residents.

Republic Square Park holds a significant place in Austin’s history. On August 1, 1839, 306 lots of the newly surveyed, square-mile town were sold at auction under the square’s oak trees. Four unnamed public squares were excluded from the auction; three of those squares remain today. These include Republic Square (which was originally called “Hemphill Square”), Brush Square and Wooldridge Park.

By the 1870s, the area around the square contained a mixture of small residences and businesses. In the late 19th Century, it had been settled primarily by Mexican-Americans, and the park itself was known as “Guadalupe.” Then, as people of color began to be pushed eastward in the 1920s and 1930s, many of the residences were replaced by car lots, warehouses and the like. In 1950, the square fell into disrepair and was paved over as a parking lot; in 1976, it was restored as a park in celebration of the bi-centennial.

The $5.8 million upgrade, which is being conducted as part of an unprecedented public-private partnership between the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Austin Parks Foundation and the Downtown Austin Alliance, is a long time coming. It originated with a task force that was formed in 1999 with the goal of focusing attention on the city’s historic downtown parks, with the three groups signing a memorandum of understanding in February 2001.

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Rendering Courtesy of the Republic Square Park Facebook Page

When it reopens next year, the park will boast a modern, connective design including a circular promenade that connects pedestrians to the four corners of the park, with a central lawn designed for people to gather for recreation and leisure activities. It also will feature are that honors the park’s history. New amenities will include a permanent food kiosk, cafe-style seating and restrooms.

During construction, the farmers’ market will move to the federal courthouse’s plaza and nearby streets. Once the construction is complete, the Downtown Austin Alliance will take over the operations and management of the park until at least 2030. Money from private donations, a contribution from Capital Metro, revenue from the park concession and events, interest income from a million-dollar endowment that’s included in the project’s total cost, and possibly the City will pay for amenities. These will include an on-site attendant who can keep the restroom and seating areas clean, and additional programs like yoga and movies.

Interested in learning more? Visit the Republic Square Park Facebook page.

 

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