An inspired master plan design for Waller Creek is inching closer to reality. It’s on the agenda for City Council this Thursday. It is a big step in a project I am a big fan of, and will be another transformative measure to propel Austin into the next 100 years.
You may vaguely remember news from six months ago, or so, about city council approving a plan for Waller Creek. What actually happened is City Council approved the design team, from a national competition, but not their design plan.
Here is a PDF of the design plan. (use this backup link if that doesn’t work). If you are super interested, you can watch a presentation made to city council last week like I did. (skip to 11:00 to bypass city council doldrums.)
The plan is rather broad for council to be approving wholesale, but it appears linked to getting donors who are comfortable cutting big checks.
Highlights of the plan:
- Build an outdoor concert stage — called the Poppy — at Waterlook Park just south of where the new Dell Medical Hospital will be built..
- Connect a bunch of trails and mini-bridges over the creek, connecting the Rainey Street District into the greater downtown area.
- Remove/replace the Austin Police Department headquarters.
- Build a pontoon bridge connecting to the south shore of Lady Bird Lake, which will swing from 12 O’Clock position – connecting the shores – to a 9 O’Clock position in order to open the water for boats.
If you’ve read this far, and are like “What the heck is Waller Creek?” here is a crude cheat sheet:
- There is a creek in downtown Austin, on the west side of I-35 stretching from the river (lake) to UT-Austin campus, which is prone to flooding when it rains. So the properties surrounding it represent a large economic development opportunity.
- The city is spending large sums of money, which no one disagrees with, to dig a huge tunnel deep underground, which will act as a drain for the floodwater, thus making it cool to redevelop the creek area.
- A new conservancy was formed for stewardship and to raise money for grade level improvements, and held a national competition, and a firm based in Brooklyn, NYC won.
- The design firm, the conservancy and the city are signing a legal agreement to more or less turn the Waller Creek District over to the conservancy, with the usual city checks and balances, etc.
- This project is coinciding with the new Dell Medical School and adjacent development near the Erwin Center, along with a vaguely outlined “innovation district” along the east side of the State Capitol Complex.