As executive director of the newly formed non-profit Friends of Nightwing Plaza, I am pleased to welcome this temporary plaza to the Travis Heights and Bouldin neighborhoods.
Created by closing off the right-turn lane from Congress Avenue onto Barton Springs Road and building landscape barriers along the northern edge of the latter, Nightwing Plaza is a harbinger of ‘placemaking’ in the heart of Austin’s emerging South Central Waterfront district. The triangular-shaped plaza incorporates Dale Whistler’s Night Wing abstract bat sculpture on the existing traffic median at the southeast corner, from which it takes its name. Over the next several years, the Friends aim to host events that encourage neighborhood use and enjoyment of this plaza while working with the community to transform its ‘temporary’ condition into a lively, inviting, and permanent city feature.
Placemaking is both a vision for and an approach to helping communities create people-friendly public places as city or neighborhood centers. The Friends of Nightwing Plaza believe this small but vital space offers such an opportunity. In June of 2016, City Council adopted the South Central Waterfront Plan to guide development of the area spanning west-to-east from the emerging RiverSouth tower on the former Hooter’s site to Joe’s Stone Crabs, and north-to-south between Riverside Drive/Barton Springs Road and Lady Bird Lake. The Plan envisions over twenty new acres of green streets, parks, trails, and open public spaces, with the redeveloped Austin American Statesmen site at its cornerstone. In this context, Nightwing Plaza can be shaped to provide a safe, open pedestrian space that connects the existing intersection with a green artery heading east into the newly developed area (see illustration). Imagine any number of small but bustling public plazas in Europe and older American cities like Charleston or Savannah, and you can begin to see our vision.
Ongoing permitting issues have slowed programming for the space, but we encourage you to use it for local, spontaneous events starting right away: yoga on the plaza, chess clubs, meetups with friends. Yeti has provided seating and we are working to have temporary shade structures in place by summer. We are also currently looking for volunteers and donations to help us toward our goal. You can follow us on Facebook and contact me with questions or efforts to help: [email protected].