Skip to content

A transformative urban design and placemaking vision for Congress Avenue—a vibrant and walkable civic and cultural stage for Downtown Austin

Congress Avenue Urban Design Initiative

City of Austin
Austin, TX
1.25 miles
Planning and Urban Design
Additional Services
Community Engagement
Landscape Architecture
Completed 2017

While Austin has grown and evolved as a global hub for culture and technology, the streetscape of Congress Avenue has remained relatively static since the 1980s. Congress Avenue, often called the “Main Street of Texas,” is one of the most iconic and lively streets in Austin. From the Texas Capitol to Lady Bird Lake, the Avenue serves as the spine of Downtown Austin’s cultural, economic, and civic heart.

The Congress Avenue Urban Design Initiative (CAUDI) envisions a transformative urban design, placemaking, and implementation strategy for a 1.25 mile stretch of Congress Avenue between Riverside Drive and 11th Street. The goal of this effort is to create a complete multimodal street with a dynamic public realm that contributes to Downtown Austin’s evolution as a vibrant, walkable cultural mecca.

Placemaking & Identity

The design of Congress Avenue is intended to reflect the vibrant culture, history, and landscapes of Central Texas. The context and function of Congress Avenue changes along its length from the Capitol grounds to Riverside Drive. To reflect and enhance the unique qualities of each zone, the vision includes four distinct character areas:

  1. The Civic Stage
  2. The Heart of Austin
  3. The Green Gateways
  4. The Bridge


Beginning with the project launch in 2017, CAUDI engaged over 500 stakeholders and members of the public through a series of meetings and discussions. In parallel with this series of public meetings, the project team engaged with over a dozen city departments and committees to provide technical input and build consensus around the project. The overall reception was overwhelmingly positive and received significant coverage in the media.

Balancing the Avenue

Creating space for people, events, and culture is a guiding principle of the CAUDI vision and a major achievement of this project. The Avenue’s existing configuration heavily favors vehicles and through-traffic at the expense of pedestrian activity and placemaking. This study, in close coordination with the City of Austin’s Transportation Department, paved the way for converting six lanes of traffic into a multimodal street with above-grade bike lanes and a generous pedestrian realm.

Streetscape Design

In addition to a transformative mobility strategy and placemaking vision, CAUDI involved a full-depth reconstruction of the Avenue in order to address fundamental challenges, from equity to sustainability. This effort included the following components:

  • Congress Avenue For All: From cross-slopes to accessible parking spaces, the CAUDI design guidelines fully upholds federal ADA standards in order to ensure a welcoming and comfortable environment for all.
  • Keeping Austin Weird: The public realm plays a vital role as support for local businesses, a public space for gathering and relaxation, and a venue for local art and culture. In order to reinforce the multifunctional nature of Congress Avenue, the pedestrian realm is organized into generous sidewalk areas for retail displays and cafe seating; a clear space for walking; and a public amenity area with seating, space for art and music, trees and rain gardens.
  • Greening the Avenue: Creating a lasting canopy of healthy trees along Congress Avenue is among the highest priorities of the CAUDI vision. A series of underground rain gardens proposed along Congress Avenue features a suspended paving system and structural soil. This innovative strategy facilitates stormwater treatment and provides the space and soil quality needed for healthy mature trees, while minimizing O&M costs and creating more space for seating and amenities.


The process of envisioning this bright future for Congress Avenue built a sense of momentum that translated into immediate action. During the early stages of the COVID pandemic, CAUDI served as the inspiration for creating temporary bike-lanes along Congress Avenue to meet the heightened need for open space amenities. The vision and design guidelines were adopted by Austin’s City Council and incorporated into the 2020 citywide mobility bond, securing $30 million of funding towards implementation. The City is working with a nationally recognized bridge engineer to realize the redesign of the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge.

For more information contact Martin Zogran.

Sasaki colorful logo Sasaki 中文