The Trail Foundation’s vision for a “Trailhead” space atop the 1.58-acre tract of parkland at the southwest corner of East Avenue and Cummings Street on the far south end of the Rainey Street District is one of the area’s most compelling projects. But between a pandemic and ongoing growth in the neighborhood, things look a little different around here than they did when the plan was first announced back in 2019 — that’s why we’re happy to learn that the Rainey Street Trailhead hasn’t fallen through the cracks, with the Trail Foundation confirming that the project submitted its site development permit to the city last month, with further pre-development work scheduled this fall for a groundbreaking currently planned sometime next summer.
A recent view of the trailhead parkland at the corner of East Avenue and Cummings Street, with construction on 44 East Avenue underway across the street.
Providing a more formalized entry point to the Hike-and-Bike Trail for the area’s ever-expanding population is obviously a good thing — but even more importantly, the size of the parkland in question means that that plan’s many features beyond a simple trail entrance will create what’s shaping up to be the neighborhood’s best park, with few other options in the immediate area outside of the more contemplative grounds of the nearby Mexican American Cultural Center.
The potential of the trailhead as a neighborhood amenity is clearly on the minds of Intracorp, the developers behind the 44 East Avenue condos in a late stage of construction directly across the street north of the site and scheduled for completion around the same time as the trailhead’s groundbreaking sometime in summer 2022 — in fact, the firm’s providing some of the project’s funding. Beyond the enhanced recreational potential and formalized trail access in its landscape design by local firm dwg., the trailhead’s more subtle goal is to continue the Trail Foundation’s frequent work of improving the ecology of the site by restoring elements of the riparian zone near the shore and along the water’s edge, with landscaping addressing erosion at the banks and removing invasive plants in favor of native grasses and flowers.
The scope of work at the site, as described in a filing from late last month with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, includes new pathways, a seating area with cafe tables and chairs, a nature play area, and a dock providing recreational access to the lake, among other features seen in the diagram below — as we never tire of pointing out, the site’s already graced with a stunning public restroom by local architects Miró Rivera, so you might say it’s high time the rest of the park shaped up:
And sure, we still have to wait almost another year until it even breaks ground, but in the Austin of 2021 compared with our sunnier outlook in 2019, the simple fact that this project’s still breathing is cause for celebration. Oh hey, that reminds us — has anyone heard an update on that whole “Drake Bridge Commons” thing lately?