The Scarbrough Building at Sixth Street and Congress Avenue is downtown’s first skyscraper, completed back in 1910 when its eight floors were more than enough to earn that title. Despite being built in a era of astonishingly low car ownership per capita compared to current rates, the tower doesn’t do much for the pedestrian at street level besides look pretty.
Back then, everyone was probably too busy trying not to catch tuberculosis to waste any time thinking about newfangled concepts like “walkability” or “activated streetscapes.” But here in the future, some new city filings appeared this week for a sidewalk cafe on the northeast side of the Scarbrough Building, facing Congress Avenue and West Sixth Street.
There it is, in all its glory. It may not look like much in the rendering, but landscape architecture firm dwg. is behind this design — if you’re aware of some of their other work around the city, you can see why we’re interested.
Here’s a short description from city filings:
This project will install a sidewalk cafe along the building frontage of Congress Ave. and 6th Street; significant appurtenances include an elevated deck with ADA ramp, tables, chairs, hand rails, stone counter, and pavers. All structures are designed to be deconstructed within a 48-72 hour time frame. No excavation or utility installation is planned as part of this project.
— City of Austin
The cafe will be run by what the documents describe as an “adjacent restaurant tenant,” but we’ve got no further details as to its identity.
One last thing I noticed in these documents is a reference to a “Bronze Bat Inlay,” which sounds like an indie band I started in college but actually describes a metal plaque installed in a certain spot on the sidewalk. Referencing the plans, it looks like this inlay will mark the optimal viewing position for a sculpture on the corner. I think you might even be able to see the bat near the corner on the rendering above. Does that look like a bat to you?
So what’s the sculpture, and why do you have to stand in a certain spot to see it? Brother, I wish I knew.
We like to rag on the shortcomings of Congress Avenue, but projects like these are slowly but surely turning the main street of Texas into something to be proud of. Now they just need to do something about all the abandoned buildings!