412 Comal St.
Plaza Saltillo is located at the intersection of East 5th and Comal Streets and is one stop along the MetroRail line that ties Leander to downtown Austin. Built in 1997, it has a landscaped courtyard, tiled and shaded arcades, and native vegetation. Bordered by the East Cesar Chavez and Guadalupe neighborhoods, a few features; benches, fountain, and statue were contributions from Austin’s sister city of Saltillo, Coahuila.
This Plaza was built in 1997 as a collaborative project with Capital Metro, the City of Austin, East Austin Leaders, and Austin's sister city of Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico. The Plaza is often used for community events, political gatherings, and farmers’ markets. You can reserve this space through the Austin Parks and Recreation Department which maintains the Plaza on behalf of Capital Metro which owns the land. Metro has a train platform and ticket kiosk on the north side of the Plaza on E. 5th Street and the Metro bus stop is on the eastern side on Comal Street. This spot has always been a multi-modal station serving the entire Austin community.
On Christmas Day in 1871, the first train rolled into Austin using this area as its main station until a suitable Depot was built for passengers at 3rd and Congress Streets a few years later because in 1901, as part of a deal by the state legislature approving the merger of the Austin and Northwestern into the Houston and Texas Central. The land on both sides of these rail tracks were teeming with warehouses, oil companies, and small businesses that shipped and received goods from rail cars. This part of Austin boomed with the coming and going of the trains and adjacent properties soon sprouted with all kinds of multi-modal transportation related services like bicycle shops, black smith and iron works, horse and buggy companies, and watering holes like the Historic Red’s Scoot Inn where folks working with and for the trains could socialize. With the coming of gas-powered trucks and cars, most of the local shops and warehouses were abandoned over time and this area became very industrialized. In the 1980s a huge fire erupted in one of the abandoned warehouses and spread so quickly that most of the historic railway warehouses burned down. Fortunately, the blaze didn’t destroy small company- owned cottages lining both sides of the tracks on E. 4th and E. 5th Streets that had offered bunks and rooms for long-haul railroad workers and after the railroad heydays became truly affordable rental units.
Since the early 1980s, the rail corridor has become home to many artists and creatives. As of 2015, few of these little cottages remain, being replaced by new condos and apartments for a new wave of workers coming to this part of Austin. In the next few years, the vacant land west of here will be transformed into a mixed-use, transit oriented development. The corridor is growing an arts and entertainment district that is displacing a lot of the small shops that this pre-dominantly low-income, Mexican American community preserved through boom and bust, good times and hard times. This historic rail corridor is experiencing a new multi-modal renaissance. Steam and diesel trains have been replaced by sleek MetroRail cars, bicycle rental and repair shops have returned to the area. We still have horse-drawn carriages cruise this station and our local taxi companies now must compete with local Pedi cabs, Uber and Lyft. About the only type of shops supporting multi-modal transportation that haven’t returned to this hub are horse-related black smiths, saddle and tack shops. We hope you enjoy your visit to Austin’s historic transportation hub!