We are leading the effort to transform Congress Avenue into a truly exceptional place – the greatest street in Austin and one of the great streets in the world.
A New Vision for Congress Avenue
Congress AveNue Urban Design Initiative
The Downtown Austin Alliance, in partnership with the City of Austin and other stakeholder groups, continue to guide the development of a long-term vision for Congress Avenue. In 2015, we hosted events soliciting public input for the project. In 2016, we supported the City’s process to select a design team and collaborated to plan another extensive community engagement campaign in 2017. The Downtown Alliance successfully advocated for bond funding for this initiative in 2012.
Temporary Art Installation
Xyz atlas: congress avenue
Following the Visioning the Avenue Workshop and Report in 2010, the Downtown Alliance undertook a number of momentum projects to make positive, visible change on the Avenue. The following is a list of project accomplishments:
Congress Avenue Banners
In 2015, the DAA, in partnership with the City of Austin Transportation Department, created a new district banner program for Congress Avenue. The goal of this pilot project was to create a district identity for the Downtown Wayfinding Master Plan as well as a template and design guidelines for Congress Avenue and other downtown districts. Click here to review the recommended banner design guidelines. Link here to find out how to apply to hang light pole banners.
Old Bakery Park
In partnership with the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department and the Austin Parks Foundation, the DAA transformed this little known park at 10th and Congress Avenue into a place that has activity and function.
In 2012, the DAA recruited a food trailer to operate in the park, providing much needed lunch options for this part downtown. In 2014, DAA created a plan to make much needed park improvements with design help from volunteers at SDSGroup Architecture & Design, dwg., and Design Workshop. This plan was implemented in Fall 2014, with the Parks and Recreation Department leading the project with much needed drainage improvements, and the DAA adding significant landscape improvements with contractor SunGrow Landscape Services, and comfortable shade and seating including a commissioned community artisan table made by Hatch Workshop.
The DAA, in partnership with the City’s Public Works Department, took over the year-round planting and maintenance of the cast iron green planters on the Avenue in 2014. We hired local landscape architect Eleanor McKinney to create a landscape plan and bid documents. In addition to defining a year-round planting strategy, the project included removing the 30-year-old planting material and then filling the pots with new plant fill material and plants. DAA continues to contract with SunGrow Landscape Services to plant and maintain the planters.
Buses Moved to Guadalupe & Lavaca
After many years of DAA advocacy for the relocation of buses from Congress Avenue to a route that is more effective and efficient, a majority of Capital Metro bus routes moved to the Lavaca and Guadalupe corridors in 2014. After the move occurred, the DAA worked with the City’s Public Works Department to relocate benches, planters, and trashcans to better accommodate the users along the Avenue.
Congress Avenue tree lighting
In 2013, the DAA created a year-round lighting program on all of the trees on Congress Avenue from Cesar Chavez to the Capitol. Completed in partnership with Austin Energy, the City of Austin’s Public Works Department, Titus Electric, and Sherrariums, this lighting project creates a sense of place, greater safety, and an inviting environment for outdoor dining. Additionally, it provides a perfect foundation for a livelier holiday shopping district.
The DAA's successful and active retail recruitment program is based on the 2006 Downtown Retail Development Strategy, and subsequent Merchandise Mix Strategies for Congress Avenue and East 6th Street. We have a full-time retail recruiter who works in an advisory role getting local and regional retailers interested in locating on Congress Avenue and East and West 6th Streets. Successes on the Avenue include:
- Brooks Brothers
- Royal Blue Grocery
- Wild About Music
- P. Terry’s Burger Stand
- Houndstooth Coffee
In April 2012, the DAA hosted PlazaLife, a two-day event at the Frost Bank Tower Plaza that demonstrated a variety of activities that can take place regularly if we were to re-imagine how we use our downtown plazas. The plaza came to life with live performances, music, games, business gatherings, food vendors and more.
We are using the results of PlazaLife (public surveys and property owner feedback) to develop a toolkit that property owners can use to turn their public plazas into vibrant spaces.
In 2014, the DAA recruited Flowers on the Fly to pilot a mobile retail vending program on the Avenue. Testing the theory that using small mobile vending carts could be a way to incubate new and emerging retail, Flowers on the Fly can be found on Fridays at the corner of 6th and Congress.
Holiday Tree at the Capitol
While the DAA has sponsored the holiday tree at the Capitol for many years, in 2012 the DAA purchased a new 40 foot tree featuring a programmed light show set to holiday songs of local Austin musicians to create a new holiday experience for Congress Avenue. The tree lighting at the Capitol is held in conjunction with the annual Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Stroll.
Bike Rack Sculptures
In February 2010, we hosted a community-wide charrette, asking participants to create a vision and that will transform Congress Avenue into an active, vibrant and walkable gateway to the city. The resulting plan laid the groundwork for several momentum projects as well as a new urban design initiative for the avenue.
Imagine Congress: Linking the Pieces Together
In summer 2013, the Downtown Alliance hired Don Stastny, FAIA, FAICP, founder and CEO of STASTNY architects, llc to conduct a success audit and interview over 100 Congress Avenue property owners and stakeholders. The purpose of the audit was to inform the DAA about the progress that had been made over the past five years and what stakeholders wanted to see going forward.
On September 6, 2013, Mr. Stastny presented his findings at a breakfast presentation to stakeholders and community leaders. The 40-minute presentation outlined the feedback from the stakeholders and recommendations on what the DAA, City of Austin, and property owners should focus on going forward. Congress Avenue is more than just a great street, it really can and should act as the spine of downtown that links the evolving districts of the CBD together.
Policy & Ordinance ChangesThe DAA continues to advocate for changes to City policies and ordinances in order to achieve the community vision.
In 2014, the DAA advocated to change the rules regarding sidewalk dining making it easier and less expensive for restaurants. The ordinance changed the requirements and fee structure by changing the process from a license agreement to an annual permit. In addition, the DAA supported the Royal Blue Grocery Pocket Patio pilot project, which is also now an allowable use of the right-of-way and permitted through the sidewalk dining process. (Download the sidewalk dining application here)
The DAA successfully advocated for an ordinance change with the City of Austin to allow for temporary retail pop-up stores to operate in vacant buildings for up to 90 days. Link here to the DAA’s how to guide.
Sidewalk Signs & Retail Merchandise
The DAA advocated for the City to allow sidewalk signs and retail merchandise by right and eliminate the required $50 annual permit. The City adopted the changes in 2014.