Block 71 is a plaza and streetscape project connecting a new LEED Platinum, mixed-use tower to a repurposed, historic 1914 post office building and the densifying city dwellers within the core of downtown Austin.
The design process for Block 71 presented many inherent challenges, including historic preservation constraints, over-structure conditions, multi-level connectivity between buildings and the streetscape, heritage tree preservation, substantial surface and below grade drainage, and overall water harvesting system coordination. The landscape architect worked closely with the design team from the beginning, with the aim to create a contemporary landscape that serves the new building and it’s surrounding downtown urban district, while maintaining a connection to the site’s historic past.
The main greenspace and plaza navigates 14’ of grade change from the upper street to the historic post office new entry, which was originally surrounded by a railed sunken areaway facing an alley and parking garage. Providing pedestrian access over the area way through a spanning glass block bridge system maintained historic preservation while opening up access to the repurposed post office building.
With a holistic approach, the landscape architect spearheaded coordination of the site’s water management, designing the plaza to mimic a hydroponic system. The system includes a below grade storm detention system and large cistern that captures all surface and subdrainage from the plaza and groundwater within the garage, for reuse as irrigation and makeup supply for the water feature. Since the project’s completion, the landscape irrigation and water feature has operated off of 100% reclaimed water generated and stored on site.
Designed for both daily use by the mixed-use building tenants and large public events, including concerts and movies in the park, the landscape architect placed heavy importance on activating the plaza at all times of the day through thoughtful design programming. The on-structure greenspace also fulfills parking needs in an already congested area, without sacrifice to the landscape.
The site now celebrates a once neglected heritage red oak as a central feature, with a contemporary multifunctional design that maintains the story of what the site once was. Through strategic and thoughtful selection of a timeless, durable, and neutral toned material palette, the goal of creating unity between the historic and contemporary buildings was achieved.
This urban infill greenspace showcases native and adaptive plantings, providing a sustainable, heat-mitigating oasis tucked within a bustling downtown urban environment.