If you’re spending any quality time downtown these days, you might have noticed Republic Square is looking a little out of the ordinary — fences now surround the perimeter of the park’s central “great lawn,” which now looks more like a great big field of dirt, with folks in hard hats mucking around in skid steers and whatnot.
So what’s the deal with Republic Square? You could figure this out very easily by checking the park’s social media, but just in case you missed it we thought we’d let you know the great lawn is closed through August 5 for a major replanting and restoration project, great timing since the grass has recently looked a little patchy — people downtown really like using this park, who could have guessed?
But if you piece through the latest social media posts of landscape architecture firm Nudge Design, working on the project alongside Clean Scapes Landscaping on behalf of the park’s stewards at the Downtown Austin Alliance, you’ll see there’s more to this work than just new grass — it appears the refresh of the lawn also includes landscaping additions to the grove of oaks at the northeast corner of the square, providing shaded space opposite the site’s more prominent grove of “Auction Oaks.”
While we’re paying attention, another big recent change at Republic Square you might have missed is the departure of the Salt & Time Cafe kiosk located at the southwest corner of the park, now operating instead as an outpost of popular local bagel shop Rosen’s, although the wonderful meats of the Salt & Time team will survive at the site in the form of various bagel sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. (Great bagels aside, we are going to miss Salt & Time’s phenomenal jambon-beurre.)
Most importantly, and we cannot stress this enough, the new operation is still selling beer and wine, fun police be damned. However, Rosen’s is currently screwing up happy hour by closing at 2 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on weekends — despite the struggles of operating during the pandemic, Salt & Time managed to stay open later. There’s some innate tension between the cafe’s new identity and the needs of a downtown hotspot like Republic Square, since bagels are most often consumed as a breakfast food but the best time for having a glass of wine in the park is between 5 and 7 p.m. We hope the operators can figure out some kind of compromise by August.
Finally, one block south of all this action, we’re pleased to see site prep for the long-awaited Republic office tower is coming up to speed. Just getting the cars out of the parking lot, which was always kind of a silly thing to occupy a full block downtown, is enough progress for us — anyway, we’ve heard enough from the people upstairs to know that this project is a go. Won’t it look great from the park’s new lawn?