Drake Bridge Commons
RCH Studios is currently leading a team to transform the space under the First Street Bridge and the surrounding hillsides into a world-class public amenity that links downtown Austin to the Butler Trail and Lady Bird Lake.
The site, located at the footsteps of City Hall along the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail is in an ideal location to be harnessed by the community as a place for all. The project sets out to create a memorable space under the north side of First Street Bridge with improved trail surfaces, a better connection to the water’s edge and an intentional design that continues to position the trail as on of Austin’s primary outdoor amenities.
A Destination for All
The design creates a destination that celebrates the connection between the water and the land to create a true sanctuary destination where you can get away from it all.
Drake Bridge Commons pairs an extraordinary experience of nature with cultural programming to create a unique destination. The project pilots new trail materials, native habitat restoration, and management practices. Program elements will include trail improvements, green stormwater infrastructure, lighting, water access, seating, donor recognition, interpretive features, concessions, performance spaces, and public art.
The dry dock will be a place to connect with the lake and get a new perspective on Downtown. It can host a wide range of events, from performances to fitness classes. Lighting and interpretives can be integrated into the structural piles. Colorful bumpers, ladders, and handboat tie-offs will facilitate waterside use.
The wet dock is made up of floating wetlands ringed by colorful bumpers with integrated boat-up interpretive panels. Wetland plants will provide enhanced aquatic habitat and improved water quality in Lady Bird Lake.
Drake Bridge Commons is framed by groves of native trees to the east and west of the First Street Bridge. These vegetated buffers will act as thresholds to an exciting new “sanctuary” to be discovered along the Butler Trail.
The design is built around the idea of rock, the important aspect of the limestone geology and childhood experiences of clambering across rocks, and dock, recognizing the important interactions that take place where water meets land at an urban scale.
Trails east and west of the First Street Bridge will allow more direct access to Drake Bridge Commons and Lady Bird Lake from Downtown. Gateways, signage, and artwork will amplify and interpret native flora and fauna, stormwater treatment, and historic lake flood levels.
Extending well-lit, safe and inviting access to Lady Bird Lake and The Butler Trail into the evening at this downtown trailhead will allow even more hours of enjoyment, especially when outdoor temperatures are cooler. All lighting will be shielded to minimize impact on bats and other wildlife.
Final Design Concept
Docks as Destination
Dry and wet docks at Drake Bridge Commons will anchor a magnetic new destination on Lady Bird Lake. They will come together in a dynamic gathering space under the First Street (Drake) Bridge, and this new community landmark will be linked to Downtown Austin by a pair of hillside trails through native gardens.
The Austin Community
The public engagement process explored what it means to design inclusively to engage and surprise the Austin Community. For the Drake Bridge Commons project, the team created a tool-kit for community engagement to facilitate a dialogue and allow the public to express what kind of activities would bring them to this emerging public space at the edge of Lady Bird Lake.