Zilker Café plays a significant role as an ancillary recreational amenity for the comfort and enjoyment of visitors to Zilker Park. The provision of food and beverage services promotes extended use of the many recreational opportunities at the park including swimming, hiking, picnicking and canoeing. The concession also has historic ties to the community, holding a cherished place in the memory of generations of park visitors.

The value of the concession transcends that of a purveyor of food and beverage to include a role as an ambassador to the approximately one million visitors annually to Barton Springs. The Austin Parks and Recreation Department has selected and contracted with a vendor to operate the Zilker Café for the next ten years.Springfed, LLC will be a welcome addition.

Project Purpose

The concession building (Zilker Café) at Zilker Park was built in 1959-1960 and is a contributing structure to the Zilker National Register Historic District. The mid-century design of the concession building was intended to complement the current Barton Springs Bathhouse. The architect of the building was Paul Roesle, who is noted for his earlier work in Texas. The building originally had a flat roof as reflected in the 1960 construction drawings, but later, a mansard roof was added to the building, likely to conceal mechanical equipment installed at that time.

Photo of original building

In January 2016, an inspection by Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services determined that the building posed many challenges ranging from severely deteriorated structural conditions, multiple violations of current codes and regulations, outdated utility infrastructure and a lack of accessibility. In addition, hazardous materials reports indicated that both asbestos and lead were found in the building and abatement would be required.  

In the spring of 2017, the Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) evaluated the rehabilitation and adaptation of the Café building, and the process for issuing a new Request For Proposals (RFP). Given the funding, permitting and operational constraints along with the historic significance of the building, PARD decided to move forward with the rehabilitation of the historic structure that will include roof replacement, lead and asbestos abatement, and the necessary infrastructure improvements for code compliance. It is anticipated that the selected vendor through a new Request For Proposals solicitation, would have the option to construct tenant improvements that will serve their business and operational model.

Project Scope

The project consists of a complete rehabilitation of the building beginning with demolition of everything except for the slab and masonry façade. Electrical, mechanical and plumbing improvements will include new service connections and new systems to meet current codes. The new roof and restored facades have received approval from the Historic Landmark Commission.

Proposed Zilker Cafe design, Casabella Architects, 2018

Project Schedule

Construction on site began on January 9, 2020. Demolition, masonry stabilization and electric service relocation is complete. Rough plumbing is in progress. Steel installation is anticipated to begin mid-March. The café and pool light electric services have been relocated and now meet  current code requirements. Construction is on schedule to be complete the Summer of 2020. PARD is coordinating with the awarded food concession vendor, Springfed, to ensure the process for them to open for business goes smoothly. 

Funding Source

2019 Historic Preservation Fund allocated through the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT).

The Austin City Council has directed the City of Austin  to allocate up to 15% of the total revenue of HOT toward allowable historic preservation activities and projects as allowable by Texas Tax Code sections 351.103(c) and 351.101(a)(5).

Current Phase and Updates

  • Construction is in progress.
  • The awarded vendor, Springfed, is beginning the design phase of their work to open for business.
  • Electric service relocation for the cafe and pool lights is complete.

Project Contacts

Christina Bies, Project Coordinator, 512-974-9490  christina.bies@austintexas.gov

George Maldonado, Project Manager, 512-974-9525  george.maldonado@austintexas.gov

Community Engagement

As part of the project design phase, the Parks and Recreation Department solicited feedback on future operations at the Zilker Café.  An online survey was available in January & February of 2015 to help assess the Café’s future operations. Information gathered was used to frame an interactive, community discussion on SpeakUpAustin.org that was used to inform the Department’s final Request For Proposals (RFP) process.

Review our survey results.

Boards and Commissions Meetings

  • Historic Landmark Commission – August 27, 2018
  • Parks and Recreation Board Meeting – August 28, 2018