Though downtown Austin condo and apartment projects tend to spring up everywhere around the urban core, the sheer volume of current and expected residential development in the Rainey Street District sets it apart in several ways — not all of them necessarily positive, but ideally those growing pains should make it easier to see what needs fixing.
One impact of the Rainey neighborhood’s growing population is that the area’s become an important entry point for hikers and bikers on our city’s beloved and aptly-named Hike-and-Bike Trail, particularly at the southern end where the trail runs near the intersection of Rainey and Cummings Streets. The Trail Foundation, working in partnership with Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department, announced this week that some improvements were in order for this section of trail and its surrounding parkland, in order to establish a full-fledged “Rainey Street Trailhead” that would increase the area’s recreational potential with new amenities.
We’re being vague because they’re being vague — the first community engagement event for the project takes place on Saturday, September 28, meaning we don’t have exact details regarding what might be on the table just yet. “The community will advise on what would make this area more functional and explore ideas on preserving the ecology of this space,” says the city’s very short press release on the upcoming meeting, but it still has us thinking.
The present state of the trailhead isn’t bad by any means, it’s actually one of the nicer parts of the district in terms of natural beauty — and it contains what’s gotta be one of the most striking outdoor restrooms ever designed. Seriously, as public toilet architecture connoisseurs we like it very much. The trail entrance here also leads users directly into the tranquil rear grounds of Austin’s Mexican-American Cultural Center, provided you’re heading westward:
It’s truly a pleasure to walk the grounds of the MACC on the Hike-and-Bike Trail. You should try it!
Still, it’s easy to imagine what we could do here to create a space people feel compelled to linger, rather than simply stroll through. There’s a lot of shaded open space directly off the trail in this area, as seen in the photos provided by the Trail Foundation — in fact, the second picture below almost feels like foreshadowing for what might become a plaza or recreational space of some kind. Is it cliche to suggest, like, giant chess or something? How about a pétanque court?
Whatever happens over here, there’s at least one good reason to start thinking about these improvements — a lot of new neighbors moving in directly across the street from the trailhead area at the upcoming 44 East condo tower project. Recent coverage of the building, the construction of which could get moving any time now, mentions its developers Intracorp will contribute funds to the trailhead improvement effort.
Let’s at least give them something interesting to pay for — so go to this month’s event and tell them what you’d like to see in downtown’s fastest-growing neighborhood.