Pease Park doesn’t generally get the attention it probably deserves as one of Austin’s largest central green spaces — not outside of the yearly Eeyore’s Birthday festival, at least. Stretching 84 acres (!) along North Lamar Boulevard between West 15th and West 31st Streets, the park follows a large stretch of Shoal Creek and contains playgrounds, sports facilities, and trails.
For ten years, the Pease Park Conservancy nonprofit has imagined an enhanced future for this parkland, which the city’s owned since 1875. It’s existed in roughly the same state of improvement since 1926, outside of some extra sports and playground facilities — but the conservancy has a better idea for the park’s future in the form of a master plan. First adopted by Austin’s City Council in 2014, the plan outlines a conceptual framework for both the preservation and improvement of the park over the next few decades.
Thanks to a $9.7 million grant from the Moody Foundation last year and design from local landscape architecture firm Ten Eyck, the conservancy is ready to implement the first step of the master plan, which calls for the revitalization of a 13-acre space at the park’s southern entrance located at Kingsbury Street — probably why they’re calling this area Kingsbury Commons. Here are the first renderings of what we can expect at the park, which the conservancy released to the public today. Each image’s caption explains more about what you’re looking at:
The vision for Kingsbury Commons channels its place as the recreational heart and cultural soul of Pease Park and aims to enrich the area by infusing it with additional opportunities for play, fitness, activity, and connections among people of all ages, while respecting the natural green space. Protecting and preserving the natural feel of this cultural landscape is a key component of the mission of Pease Park Conservancy and of Ten Eyck’s plans for Kingsbury Commons through the use of indigenous and sustainable materials throughout the project.
— Pease Park Conservancy, Kingsbury Commons Press Release
Perhaps the most interesting element of the Kingsbury Commons improvements is the restoration and adaptive reuse of its 1920s-era public restroom facility, quite accurately known as the Tudor Cottage. One of the first public park facilities of its kind built in the city, the cottage always seemed a little too posh for service simply as a restroom — so it’s exciting to learn that as part of these improvements, the building will be adapted by local architects Clayton & Little into what the conservancy calls a “community gathering space,” with an extended stone patio on the north side to expand its capacity for events.
Here’s the full list of planned improvements for Kingsbury Commons included in the first phase of the master plan, straight from the conservancy’s new press release:
- Architects, Clayton & Little Architects, will adapt the historic 1920’s Tudor Cottage into a community gathering and event space. In addition, a new gracious stone terrace to the north of the cottage will expand the space available for community use with a view to a daylighted spring and woodland beyond.
- The creation of a new multi-use facility, just north of the Tudor Cottage, to serve as a hub for park volunteer activity, also designed by the Clayton & Little team. The new structures will house modern restrooms, storage, and additional picnicking space to supplement the park’s overcrowded existing picnic facilities and concrete block restrooms.
- Innovative recreational and educational play pod or “treehouse” inspired by the native species and trees of the park, designed by Mell Lawrence Architects.
- The creation of new children’s play areas, along with a dedicated age-specific play section for preschoolers and young children may include nature-based playscapes, like stumps and wooden beams for climbing, plus, the addition of new swing sets and slides.
- New state-of-the-art waterplay feature and splash pad with arcing and pop water jets that will be about three times the size of the existing splash pad.
- A new basketball court, volleyball courts, and inviting entrance on the eastern side of Shoal Creek to welcome all of Austin to Pease Park.
- An interpretive stone ribbon that winds throughout Kingsbury Commons, connecting the diverse activities of the area, and offering a place to highlight the ecology and the long history of Pease Park in Austin.
- Clear wayfinding and informational signage to increase awareness of elements within the park, with attention paid to the park’s historical and cultural heritage.
- New built-in bike racks and benches, along with the restoration of the historic picnic tables.
- Enhancing the experience and increasing accessibility of the entrance and gateway into the park at the intersection of Parkway and Kingsbury with native landscaping, new sidewalks, and changes to the parking lot.
- Improvements to the plantings and natural landscape, likely including the addition of rain and pollinator beds, built-in meadows, wildflowers, a woodland understory, and substantial native flowering tree grove along Lamar Boulevard.
Phew, that’s a lot to keep track of! We don’t have renderings for all of these features yet, but you can see several of them in the images above. There’s also not really a defined timeline for the improvements at the moment — despite the gift from the Moody Foundation, the conservancy has to secure more fundraising for this vision to fully emerge. Still, it’s definitely a start, and also likely a good step towards getting people to pay attention to this massive — and arguably overlooked — natural asset for the neighborhoods just north of downtown.
With the help of this nifty fly-through video released today by the conservancy, you can get a much better idea of the Kingsbury Commons project’s layout and scale: