The Challenges of Waterloo Park

The Challenges of Waterloo Park

Headstone at Waterloo Park

Headstone at Waterloo Park

With vegetation, a natural creek bed, seclusion, and rolling hills, Waterloo Park has the “right stuff” to be the best park in Austin.  Flanked on the east and west by Red River Street and San Jacinto Blvd Trinity, respectively, Waterloo Park’s configuration runs north-south length wise between 15th and 12th streets, as Waller Creek meanders through it.

A couple weekends ago, Amber and I wanted to check out the “Birth of Cool” exhibit at the Blanton museum, and we decided to walk from our building (Sabine) along Waller Creek through Waterloo Park.

As we walked through Waterloo Park, we were overtaken with its beauty but disappointed in its care.  We found a littered creek, overgrown vegetation, and hazardous pathways.  One unmarked sinkhole in the middle of the pathway would have seriously injured anyone who didn’t notice it – easily three feet deep.

Waterloo Park sits in an industrial zone

Waterloo Park sits in an industrial zone

With all of its innate beauty, Waterloo Park is analogous to a gifted MVP baseball player, who somehow gets stuck playing for a losing team.

Waterloo Park sits underutilized inside an industrial zone of competing real estate interests: Travis County, State of Texas, University of Texas, and Brackenridge Hospital.

Tough location, eh?

Hospital parking garages to the east.  State of Texas parking garages to the west.  Social services and more parking garages to the north.  The neighborhood and urban fabric breaks down north of 11th Street.  Lack of coordination by the major real estate holders yields nothing of significant neighborhood value to draw a critical mass of pedestrians.

Waterloo Park is a great example of the results of poor urban planning and stakeholder coordination – the park is surrounded with parking garages (blight), is not integrated into the fabric of our neighborhood, and is often inhabited with drug addicts, drunks, and panhandlers.  As such, it remains a destination that few people care to visit.

About Jude Galligan

Jude Galligan, REALTOR, Principal of TOWERS Realty and publisher of Downtown Austin Blog (aka. "DAB"), spends his time matching remarkable people with remarkable properties in Austin’s urban core. A resident owner in downtown Austin, Jude has served on the Board of the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA) and the City of Austin Downtown Commission. Contact Jude.


  1. Austin’s Waller Creek is one of its natural features that has a very high potential for success. I find it abysmal the state that it has become now. What was once a great creek has now become a trash dump.

    I agree that Waterloo Park could become a great park, but that improvement needs to come with a facelift for the entire Waller Creek region from the University of Texas down to Lady Bird Lake. I’m disappointed with the original choice to cantilever a road over the creek (San Jacinto road at UT) where it’s sole purpose now is to provide parking. As a result, the creek has become so neglected that cleanup projects have become the norm for many on and off campus environmental minded groups.

    I have high expectations for the Waller Creek Tunnel and the Waller Creek District Master Plan that will bring this area back to the community. Let’s hope its a plan that successfully goes to completion.

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