City testing public plaza at S. Congress and Barton Springs Road

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The intersection of South Congress Avenue and Barton Springs Road is just a few steps away from receiving a facelift that will transform the area into a temporary public plaza where people can lounge as traffic goes by. The city of Austin plans to test the changes for a year before making a decision if it’ll become permanent. 

The South Central Waterfront (SCW) Plan identifies “Barton Springs Plaza,” aka Nightwings Plaza, as a catalytic open space opportunity to jumpstart the SCW vision. The SCW Plan calls for creating a temporary plaza to test the concept, using low-cost and temporary materials and working in partnership with community partners. 

Various city departments are working together to create a much grander 12-month demonstration plaza. 

Alan Holt with the city of Austin Planning and Zoning Department says over the course of this year, the city will operate the area as a free public plaza.

“It’ll be an ongoing experiment we’re testing with the people on what actually makes this thing work. What kind of activities… we’ll rearrange furniture, being in temporary shade structures and other materials,” explains Holt. 

The famous Nightwing statue won’t be going anywhere. It’ll be incorporated as part of the plaza. 

In the process of revamping the area, the existing right turn from South Congress Avenue onto Barton Springs Road was removed, after the city deemed it unsafe for people crossing or cycling. 

Austin Sprinkle works in the area and says the changes are welcome in a bustling part of the town. “That’d be great. The more the merrier. I love the activities here” Sprinkle says.

Britt Rodgers works in the area too and says that the elimination of the right-hand turn lane has only increased traffic troubles. “It gets so jammed up,” explains Rodgers. “I think we need it more for the traffic more than people sitting around and we’ve got plenty of parks we can enjoy. We need traffic solutions here.”

Maya Pilgrim questions whether the upgrades are needed elsewhere. “There are a lot of other places in Austin that get a lot less love than South Congress that could probably use that.”

The city will be seeking your feedback before the temporary plaza becomes permanent. 

The Barton Springs Plaza is part of a larger South Central Waterfront District Vision. The vision works to create new open spaces, trails, parks and public places as the city of Austin continues to grow. 

The South Central Waterfront is an area bordered by Lady Bird Lake along the north, South First to the west, Riverside along the south, running almost entirely to Interstate 35 to the east. The area encompasses 118 acres, which is made up of about 30 separate private properties, directly across the lake from downtown. 

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