Downtown
2:48 pm
Tue November 20, 2012

How Downtown Austin Lost Two Parking Spaces - And Gained a 'Parklet'

609 Congress Ave. has its two parking spots occupied – and you can circle the block all you want, but you won’t get a space there.

That’s because the two spots in front of the Royal Blue Grocery have been converted into a street patio. With the city’s blessing, Royal Blue has converted the spots as part of a pilot program testing the feasibility of future conversions.

The idea behind the street patio is to make the city more pedestrian-friendly and less auto-centric. “The two parking spaces at 609 Congress are estimated to have housed about five cars per day total,” reads a release from the office of Chris Riley, the Austin City Council’s resident urban design wonk. “If this ‘street patio’ performs as successfully as the ones in other cities have, that space will be opened up to hundreds of people to use each day.”

The patio is modeled after “parklets” that have popped up in other cities, which similarly aim to provide urban amenities to flesh-and-blood residents instead of their metal-and-chrome counterparts.  Austin previously got a taste of the plans for 609 Congress back in September, when the spaces were temporarily converted as a part of Worldwide PARK(ing) Day.

Not everyone was happy about the change: neighboring business Joe Koen & Son Jewelers complained to the City Council about the loss of parking. But as the program is a pilot, the council decided the information to be garnered was a benefit to the city.

Photographer Filipa Rodrigues was on hand for the unveiling of the patio today, which was designed by urban landscape architecture firm dwg, and engineered by local consultancy outfit Big Red Dog. Take a look at the photos above.