Two downtown parking spots become Austin's first street patio


by HEATHER KOVAR / KVUE News and photojournalist DAVID GARDNER

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Posted on November 20, 2012 at 7:24 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 20 at 7:41 PM

AUSTIN -- New outdoor seating for up to 25 people on Congress Avenue opened Friday. It's the first of its kind in Austin.

The area used to be two parking spots. Now the space boasts wood floods and silver chairs, and is separated from traffic by 15,000 pounds of steel.

George Scariano owns Royal Blue Grocery. He paid to create the space outside of his store knowing that after one year, the City of Austin could make him take it down.

"There is nothing on this that is actually permanently mounted," Scariano said. "It's what we're calling a 'retail patio.' Royal Blue has done a partnership with the City of Austin and Downtown Austin Alliance to try to increase and improve the pedestrian experience on Congress Avenue."

Since you can buy wine and beer inside Royal Blue, people are spending happy hour outside on Congress.

If the City adopts the program, it would allow other business owners to apply to create patios out of parking.

Of course there are concerns about losing more metered spots when they can be difficult to find. However, Austin City Council Member Chris Riley says the two spaces taken by Royal Blue on Congress had very little turnover.

"So really not that many people got that much use out of these parking spaces. And now whole crowds of people get to enjoy this space and support this local business," said Riley.

He also says three more spots were created around the corner on 7th Street when Capital Metro moved a bus stop.

There is a lot of buzz about creative use of parking spots. San Francisco and Portland are said to be  leaders in the trend. Now it's in Austin.

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