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
South Central Waterfront Initiative
The Downtown Austin Alliance is actively engaged in the South Central Waterfront Initiative, the City of Austin’s master planning process for the area bordering Lady Bird Lake’s southern shore. As a member of the South Central Waterfront Stakeholder Outreach Committee, we work closely with the community and City staff, and supported the adoption of a new master plan in 2016 after co-hosting many public engagement events with the City in 2015 and 2016. The Austin City Council approved the creation of a new South Central Waterfront Advisory Board, and the Downtown Alliance will have an ex-officio seat on the board.
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:
Design and Placemaking Projects
The Downtown Alliance has implemented a number of design and placemaking projects on Congress Avenue that have made a significant impact to the ambiance and support our collective, long-term vision for the Avenue. Key projects include:
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.
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.
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.