Hey, remember Brush Square? It’s pretty easy to overlook these days, what with the whole thing being fenced off for construction since last summer — but that’s actually a good thing, since it means the project by Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department to transform one of the city’s original public squares into a more accessible downtown park space is finally close to completion. Remember, we’ve been talking about doing something new at this site since at least 2011 when it showed up as an action item in the Downtown Austin Plan, and the actual concept for the park dates back to 2018.
Friendly reminder that 2018 was five years ago and counting — so yeah, we’re jazzed this is happening, even if it’s just the first phase of a longer-term plan. So jazzed, in fact, that even though our super-secret inside sources indicate the new Brush Square should drop the fences sometime later this month, we’re ready to take a look now. Sticking a camera over the fence here is our right as public citizens, so let’s see how phase one of the Brush Square plan is shaping up, guerrilla-style.
Unlike its peers at Republic Square and Wooldridge Square, Brush Square isn’t a full downtown block of open space — much of the site is occupied by historic homes repurposed as museums and Austin Central Fire Station 1, a remarkable PWA Moderne masterpiece that still operates as a fire station despite being 85 years old. While an interim project to modernize the station is currently underway, the ultimate goal for Brush Square is to eventually relocate the central fire station’s operations to a new building and repurpose the older structure to serve the park instead, potentially as a downtown visitor’s center or some other friendly use.
Until this happens, the station’s surface parking lot, which takes up a decent chunk of the site, can’t be used for anything park-related. That limits what’s possible to fit here, but even this first phase of the plan does an admirable job activating what was previously an open field — landscaping features include a new event lawn, additional seating, lighting, native plantings, stewardship of the site’s notable heritage trees, an accessible trail network winding through the space to entice pedestrians, and so on.
The design for the square was originally crafted under the mantle of planning firm Asakura Robinson, but its project manager, friend of the site Brendan Wittstruck, has since started a new firm at Dovetail Studio. Still, the Brush Square plan is his baby, and he’s been involved from the concept stage all the way to construction — we’re really proud to say a Towers contributor brought this thing to the finish line. We’ll look forward to the official opening, but c’mon, aren’t you enticed already?