The recently relocated Austin Farmers Market draws a large crowd to Republic Square

Republic Square in Austin, Texas has a long and storied history. The first city blocks were auctioned there under live oak trees in the summer of 1839; patriotic Mexican celebrations were staged during the First World War; cars were invited to park in the 1950s, only to be sent away twenty-seven years later when the space was reclaimed as a park.

In the last few years, citizens and officials working under public- private partnerships have taken bold strides to make the square a more dynamic gathering space and center for downtown life. Most recently, working with the Downtown Austin Alliance, Local Federal Court, the GSA, local property owners and residents, and the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, the Austin Parks Foundation has taken steps to restore the health of those now 300 year old Auction Oaks by removing berms that choked off root growth (270 truckloads of soil),  built a sensitively designed deck under one of those oaks with movable tables and chairs, planted 1600 native plants in the Auction Oak grove, planted 10 large trees, and restored irrigation and turf.

Relaxing on the new deck underneath the historic "Auction Oaks"

A vision map of Republic Square Park reflected ideas from the PPS-led workshop

But it all started with a GSA Good Neighbor Program sponsored Project for Public Spaces workshop in December 2006, which resulted in the top priorities that have been implemented in this first phase.  A total of $450,000 has raised by the Austin Parks Foundation, including $30,000 from the GSA for tree planting. Now, the Austin Farmers Market, Yoga in the park, outdoor movies and art events are utilizing the deck and square.
The next phase of work on the square will aim to create better connections to the surrounding streets and buildings, including a new federal plaza.

Special thanks to Charlie McCabe from the Austin Parks Foundation for his assistance with this post.