Waller Creek design up-to-bat for council approval

Waller Creek design up-to-bat for council approval

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:

  1. Build an outdoor concert stage — called the Poppy — at Waterlook Park just south of where the new Dell Medical Hospital will be built..
  2. Connect a bunch of trails and mini-bridges over the creek, connecting the Rainey Street District into the greater downtown area.
  3. Remove/replace the Austin Police Department headquarters.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
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. Riverside Resident says

    Mmmm looks like an interesting plan but how much of this is pie in the sky and how much is reality? Specifically wondering if the city has already discussed the idea of re-locating the the police department? Also if these guys have been in touch with the recently announced plans for the new Medical School. I noticed that there map does not straighten out Red River. Lastly, if the idea is to connect Lady Bird Lake with UT, why does the plan stop at 13th and not get us across MLK and onto campus. I was involved with some of the early meetings for the recently adopted plan for redevelopment of Riverside and the outside planner on that project was more than a little out of touch with reality as well. Sorry, I am excited by the redevelopment and evolution of downtown but we don’t need a bold plan that will just collect dust on a shelf somewhere…. I mean do we really think the city is going to build a swiveling pontoon bridge across the lake??

  2. (The PDF link is broken.)

  3. Lance Hunter says

    Okay, first impressions:

    Whoever put old men fishing on the image of the pontoon bridge doesn’t know much about Lady Bird Lake.

    It looks like the plan doesn’t call for the demolition of Elysium or Mohawk, which is what a lot of people feared. (Elysium might still get wiped out by the increased rent that will come with the redevelopment, but at least Mohawk has a strong enough business to endure.)

    Okay, now I’m seeing the images of the Park at Creek level between 7th and 12th street, and there are kids with nets apparently trying to catch fish. What the hell is with these designers and fishing?

    Looking at the Waterloo Park area, and I gotta admit The Poppy is pretty damned cool. Definitely looking forward to Gwar playing there for the 15th anniversary of Fun Fun Fun Fest

    Overall, I think it’s pretty cool, but it won’t work out to be quite this pretty. The part in the Rainey Street district will probably work out well, and Waterloo Park could definitely be turned around. Between 12th St and Cesar Chavez will probably remain kind of a slum, though. That’s unless the city suddenly decides to begin a hardcore crackdown on the homeless population in the area, but I don’t think that will happen. There isn’t the political will to force the homeless shelter or soup kitchen to move. Also, dirty 6th will remain dirty 6th, no matter how much you try and spruce up the area. No creekside development is going to change that.

    Hrm… looking this over further it seems like they want to tear up one the main street that leads to my gym (and, in fact, have the gym itself listed as an “opportunity area”). Hopefully that part of the plan fails. It’s the best gym downtown and easily the best thing in that area currently. They’re holding regional and national-level events that are really well attended, and bringing an athletic crowd further into downtown (as opposed to just hanging around the lake).

    Now, suddenly having a park spring up around the gym would be pretty cool (and certainly lead to some interesting workouts), but it seems like the designers here are hoping it will become a restaurant or something (since they inexplicably set “cafe” seating around half the building space.) That’s not cool.

  4. Roadgeek says

    So what will be done with all the free-range humans who frequent Waller Creek? Will they remain, to become a part of the new Waller Creek millieu?

    • Lance Hunter says

      Secretly, I dream of the city giving a massive grant to move Caritas and the homeless shelters that are currently between 7th and 8th street over to Mueller. Let the fools who purchased into a pre-fab minisuburb handle the homeless population for a while.

      (All snark aside, that would be a better location for those services than where they currently are. It takes the at-risk population away from the large amounts of alcohol and drug use that are a part of the entertainment district, it’s just across I-35 from an official day labor site, and not significantly further away from the hospital by ambulance.)

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