After three years of planning and over one year of data-gathering (hey, don’t laugh) from a migrating temporary restroom, the City of Austin is ready to put down roots, with two permanent public restroom installations headed downtown this November and a third on the way by January 2020. Thanks to recent city utility filings and some assistance from the Downtown Austin Alliance, we’ve got some very specific information about where this toilet trio’s headed.
These restroom units, though permanently installed, are prefabricated — previous reports indicated their stainless steel design will resemble the famous Portland Loo and might even come from the same Oregon manufacturer.
Matt Macioge, director of operations with the Downtown Austin Alliance, says they’re not “100 percent sure” Portland Loo manufacturers Madden Fabrication will be the vendors for this project, but it’s obvious there’s a heavy inspiration from the City of Portland’s successful public restroom program.
The city’s 2018 invitation for bids on the project from private contractors doesn’t exactly mince words either:
The City of Austin is seeking a qualified contractor to supply prefabricated public restrooms, including delivery to multiple locations within the Austin, Texas Central Business District. The model required is a Portland Loo manufactured by Madden Fabrication or a buyer-approved equivalent model.
— City of Austin Public Restroom Bidding Document, 2018
The design of the restrooms, which are ADA-compliant and feature solar-powered internal LED lighting, will include some design details intended to reduce illicit use — for one thing, the sinks for hand-washing are reportedly located on the outside of the structure to discourage bathing or the washing of clothes.
The shape of the actual restroom units — shown in city public works filings from earlier this month — is clearly the same as the Portland Loo, and as a bonus the two maps below show the exact locations of the facilities:
The third restroom doesn’t appear in these documents, but according to Macioge, it’s going somewhere between Sixth and Seventh Street near the southbound I-35 frontage road, near the municipal courts facility at 700 East Seventh Street.
If all goes well, these three restrooms — apparently going by the name “Waterloo” — are just the start. A City Council resolution passed in 2018 awarded and executed a $1.3 million, five-year contract to provide up to 10 prefabricated toilet facilities around the city, and we’ll probably find out when and where they’re going once these first three units are installed and ready to rock.
The earlier program with the roving temporary research toilet worked out pretty well:
The Downtown Austin Alliance, in partnership with the Department of Public Health and the Public Works Department, ran the original pilot program with one temporary public restroom. During the pilot project, the Downtown Austin Alliance tracked an average of 120 users each day. The Downtown Austin Alliance Ambassadors, who report and track waste in the right-of-way, reported that after the deployment of the pilot project, human waste in the right-of-way decreased significantly and over an area larger than originally anticipated.
— Matt Macioge, Director of Operations, Downtown Austin Alliance
“Waste in the right-of-way” is a charming manner of phrasing it, but this is seriously great news. The facilities, though not expected to be staffed with an attendant 24/7 as the temporary facilities were earlier in the pilot program, will be cleaned, inspected, and restocked regularly by Downtown Austin Alliance employees. Just like we did back in 2017, we can’t wait to review the permanent restrooms for ourselves when they open to the public in November — after all, these facilities are a major improvement for the quality and equity of downtown’s urban environment.
For now, here’s some nifty street views for the first three anticipated restroom locations, as exact as we can get them — that last one’s still kinda up in the air: