By Hannah Neumann
Over the past six weeks, 15 Baylor students have worked to design a project that has the potential to become part of the Baylor game day experience for years to come.
The “parklet” is a 35-foot-long structure installed on the 500 block of Austin Avenue. It will consist of tables and benches meant to providing seating and a common gathering space.
“There’s a lot of growth happening here right now,” said Pasadena junior Grace Tabuena, who was also one of the studio design students assigned to the project. “Our parklet is made to draw families in and to bring college students over here who only have a connection to Baylor and not the city as much.”
Elise King, family and consumer science lecturer, said she came up with the idea while sitting in Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits one day. She overheard a discussion by members of the Waco Downtown Development Corp. talking about the need for an attraction to the area on game day.
“I heard them mentioning a few areas that they weren’t sure what to do with,” King said. “So I walked up to their table and said ‘Is there anything we can do?’”
King said she knew this would be a good opportunity for hands-on experience for her students.
“I felt that it would be great for them to see a project from the beginning and see it through to fruition,” she said. “Most of the time as a student you have all these theoretical projects so you don’t actually have to go through the process of constructing it and worrying about the budget, and this really makes them think about all those things.”
King said the area is a perfect location for a parklet because of its centrality to so many places in downtown Waco like Dichotomy, the ALICO building, the courthouse and many other businesses.
“We’re right in the middle of a lot of different things here,” King said. “But there’s not a great outdoor space to come and sit on this side of the river. We wanted to make that in an area that’s mostly asphalt and be able to have this little oasis in the middle of it.”
The parklet will remain at its current location for the game this weekend and will be subsequently evaluated by the city’s engineering department to determine if it can become a semi-permanent structure.
“It’s definitely going to be up throughout football season,” King said. “After that, we are working with the city on a year-by-year basis.”
Bee Cave junior Sarah Brown said the parklet will be beneficial to the area because of the increasing presence of food trucks in the area.
“There are food trucks across the street and the only thing over there is a few metal chairs,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of people coming around during lunchtime with nowhere to go and this will be a gathering and meeting space for people like them, and for all people to enjoy.”
A ‘W’ that stands for the City of Waco will be painted to match the rooftop mural at Dichotomy, which is directly across from the parklet.
“Each individual person had to come up with a design and then we voted on the ones we liked the best and we ended up collaborating and combining different elements that we liked from each design,” Brown said. “Like the branding on the back of the seat with the ‘W’ in blue, and we just developed it from there.”
Brown said while the class was assigned the project for a grade, she has gained much more out of it from the work she has put in and the things she has learned.
“Getting to put in the hard work and seeing it all come together is really rewarding,” she said. “It’s a really special experience and it’s a really cool project that I think will be potentially iconic.”