Construction begins on $10 million Pease Park improvement project

On Oct. 16, city and community leaders celebrated the beginning of the Kingsbury Commons project at Pease Park in Austin.

On Oct. 16, city and community leaders celebrated the beginning of the Kingsbury Commons project at Pease Park in Austin.

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Ten years ago, Pease Park Conservancy CEO Heath Riddles said Austin’s oldest public park was “collapsing.”

“It was the result of erosion, or numerous soils being compacted to the point that water was running off and it was just turning into kind of a giant mud pit,” Riddles said.

Richard Craig founded the Pease Park Conservancy in response to the park's degradation and with the goal of rehabilitating the 84-acre public space, and on Oct. 16, city and community leaders came together for a groundbreaking ceremony to commemorate the start of a major project to achieve that vision.

The Kingsbury Commons project, at a cost of $10 million, is intended to improve a roughly 10-acre section of the park. New features will include a repurposed community gathering space, a splash pad, improved athletic courts, a treehouse and new restrooms.

At the Oct. 16 groundbreaking ceremony, Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, called Kingsbury Commons a “focal point” of Pease Park, while Mayor Steve Adler called the project “transformational.”

Ten Eyck Landscape Architects designed the project. The firm’s previous projects include the South Congress Hotel and the circle at the north end of the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge crossing Lady Bird Lake.

Construction of the Kingsbury Commons project will cost approximately $10 million and will be funded by a grant from the Moody Foundation.

Additionally, Riddles said the Pease Park Conservancy has raised about $3 million of the $5 million that will be needed for park operations and maintenance over three years. Pease Park Conservancy also announced two $1 million donations Oct. 16: one from Whataburger’s Lynne Dobson and her husband, Greg Wooldridge, and another from Dale and Libby Linebarger.

In 2014, Austin City Council approved a master plan that laid out a long-term, 20-30-year vision for Pease Park, which included Kingsbury Commons. Christina Chute Canul, development administrator at the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, said there is no definitive plan as to what project will come next for Pease Park after Kingsbury Commons is finished.

“The idea is, once this is complete, up and running and successful, to move on to other phases of the master plan,” Chute Canul said.

Kingsbury Commons is expected to open in spring 2021.

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