One of Austin’s four original squares, Brush Square, is at the center of activity in downtown Austin, located near hotels, entertainment districts, trails, and transit, but needs improvement to provide urban, public space for all users. Our team led a planning process that worked through complex stakeholder and political issues, developed design concepts rooted in place and sustainability, and laid out phased implementation strategies that support this public space's importance.
New investments at Brush Square’s edges created opportunities to rethink the Square.
The Plan offered recommendations for Brush Square’s implementation strategies by outlining sources for construction and operations funding, along with potential partnership for maintenance, operations, and programming. Brush Square’s Master Plan also highlighted lessons learned for implementation based on local and national precedents.
The project team created two groups, Planning Partners and a Technical Advisory Group, to guide planning processes and share technical expertise throughout the project. Members of these groups included representatives of organizations, residential complexes, nonprofits, adjacent business/property owners with strong connections to Brush Square, and City staff from relevant departments. In addition to the Planning Partners and Technical Advisory Group, focus groups were held throughout the project to concentrate on specific topics and to gather input on specific technical issues.
Brush Square is situated at a busy downtown location, serving residents, businesses, and visitors fronting the Austin Convention Center and the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (CapMetro) new Downtown Station. This Master Plan, and the recommendations it includes, is a vital step toward realizing the importance of downtown planning for public spaces used by residents, workers, visitors, children, and people of all ages, abilities, identities, and financial situations.
Brush Square is one of the three remaining original downtown squares as envisioned in Edwin Waller’s 1839 plan for Austin. There is renewed interest in creating vibrant public spaces as downtown Austin’s residential population continues to grow and with the increased capacity and efforts of the Downtown Austin Alliance. Efforts to revitalize the Brush Square into a signature open space came on the heels of a successful renovation to Republic Square. The Brush Square project gained traction because of priorities for public safety concerns.
Asakura Robinson worked with the City of Austin to engage downtown residents, workers, tourists, commuters, and other stakeholders to create a master plan vision and implementation strategy to guide future improvements to Brush Square. Based on community and stakeholder feedback, Asakura Robinson developed a set of design principles that focused on celebrating the Square’s historic stature, improving the park experience, promoting connectivity, creating a “front porch” for visitors, ensuring a high quality pedestrian experience, and enhancing urban ecology.
The City of Austin adopted the Master Plan on March 28, 2019. The most immediate priority for Phase 1 improvements is increasing safety. The City already has funding to install additional lighting around the Square and the surrounding streets. Other focus areas for Phase 1 development include increasing tree coverage, repositioning parking spaces, and adding a water feature. The City also anticipates Phase 2 developments that will focus on history and culture and improvements to park infrastructure.