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Downtown greens up with pocket patios

Urbanist firm dwg creates multiple pocket patios on Congress Avenue.

People sitting at tables on a broad sidewalk behind a waist-high wooden counter on a city street Courtesy of DWG

Austin gets compared to San Francisco a lot lately, due to its growing tech industry, rising cost of living, and plentiful space for new housing construction. Oh, wait, only Austin has the last one.

At any rate, another way we’re catching up with the city by the bay is with the introduction of downtown pocket patios, courtesy of cutting-edge local landscape architecture firm DWG.

Most citizens are familiar enough with pocket parks—those tiny patches of land the city maintains along with our large, marquee green spaces. But pocket patios are different. A collaboration among the Downtown Austin Alliance, the Austin Parks Department, and private businesses—in this case, some of the restaurants along Congress Avenue, including DWG—pocket patios are small oases of green and respite created, with the permission and participation of all involved, on parking spaces in front of downtown businesses.

DWG has created two of the patios so far—one at 804 Congress Avenue and one outside the Royal Blue grocery store at 609 Congress—and plans four more on the street. Despite the fact that they feature fixed-in-place tables, benches, shade structures, and planters full of greenery, the spots are considered temporary, explains DWG’s Daniel Woodroffe; no curb cuts or other permanent structural modifications are made to the parking spaces, so they can be converted back in the future if need be.

Woodroffe added that the businesses that have chosen to have the patios in front of their spaces are enthusiastic about it and more than willing to give up some parking in exchange for more human (and green) space outside their buildings.

Patios are free to customers of the food and beverage vendors associated with each patio. The parking space rental fees paid by the building owners go directly to the city’s parking fund.

While that other tech city (the one on the West Coast) pioneered the pocket patio, Austin's examples are unique to our home. The design for Congress Avenue's pocket patios are carefully curated by DWG with a local aesthetic and native vegetation, making them all-Austin, all the time.