The People’s Park

Revitalized downtown Austin park reopens after year-long closure

Revitalized downtown Austin park reopens after year-long closure

Republic Square Park downtown Austin renovation rendering 2016
Parts of Republic Square Park will reopen next month.  Rendering courtesy of Austin Parks Foundation

Parts of downtown Austin’s Republic Square, which has been closed since June 2016 for a $5.8 million makeover, will reopen next month.

On Thursday, August 17, the Austin City Council approved a plan for the Downtown Austin Alliance to start managing the park effective September 1 with a first-year budget of nearly $731,000. Access to the park will be limited until the redo is finished next spring.

The alliance says Republic Square, located at Fourth and Guadalupe streets, will reopen in phases. Construction fencing will be removed and portions of the park will open to the public September 1. This fall, the park’s lawn will be ready for public use.

By next spring, the park will feature public restrooms; an array of programming, such as farmers markets, education events, live music, and movie screenings; and a cafe serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

No word yet on who will run the cafe and precisely what kind of fare it will serve. However, the Downtown Austin Alliance’s plan for Republic Square hints that an unnamed restaurant group based in Austin will manage and market the eatery, which will be open every day.

Also, Republic Square — nicknamed “The People’s Park” — will be available for events hosting as many as 3,500 guests. Money from the event rentals will go toward operations and programming at the park.

Major events already on the park’s calendar include two holiday parties this December, a Chinese New Year celebration next February, SXSW festivities next March, the Austin Food + Wine Festival next April, a University of Texas football tailgating party in September 2018, and  Austin Film Festival events in October 2018.

A sculpture by Austin artist Holly Young-Kincannon will grace the park. The title of the work is Blackbird.

“The sculpture is an abstract realization of grackles, as well as the culture of music in Austin. The dark color and flamboyant details draw inspiration from pottery and folk art of Oaxaca, Mexico,” according to the Downtown Austin Alliance’s management plan.

Through a public-private partnership, the Downtown Austin Alliance, Austin Parks Foundation, and Austin Parks and Recreation Department have teamed up to renovate the park, which has been called downtown Austin’s “front yard.”

Inspiration for the renewal of Republic Square has been drawn from Discovery Green in Houston, Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, and Hemisfair in San Antonio, along with New York City’s Central Park, High Line, and Governors Island.

“The revitalization of Republic Square has been years in the making, and the Downtown Austin Alliance is honored to play a significant role in supporting this Austin treasure,” Dewitt Peart, president and CEO of the Alliance, says in a news release.