Austin Parks Foundation Gets Big Boost From Downtown Developer

View from Spring condos #3802, 3bd/3ba

On March 3rd the developers of Spring Condos, a new downtown residential tower, will announce a $50,000 contribution to the Austin Parks Foundation. The contribution is based on a formula of $500 for each new Spring resident, and will target needed public improvements to the lower Shoal Creek Trail, which have been called for since the 1990s. When all the units at Spring are sold, the total contribution will top $100,000.

The developers will gather at the Shoal Creek pedestrian bridge to make the announcement with Mayor Lee Leffingwell, City Councilmember Chris Riley and numerous parks and downtown advocates. The Shoal Creek pedestrian bridge is one block west of 3rd and Nueces. The Spring residential tower will provide the visual backdrop.

The developers of Spring­–Diana Zuniga, Perry Lorenz, Larry Warshaw, and the late Hon. Robert Barnstone–set a standard for providing community benefits for downtown development during their zoning case several years ago. This led to a string of other developers offering similar benefits, leading to millions of dollars in pledges and contributions for parks and trails, new sidewalks, and affordable housing.

WHO: Mayor Lee Leffingwell, City Councilmember Chris Riley, Spring developers, Charlie McCabe of the Austin Parks Foundation, and representatives of the Trail Foundation, Downtown Austin Alliance, Austin Metro Trails & Greenways, and Original Austin Neighborhood Assn.

WHAT: Announcement of a $50,000 contribution to the Austin Parks Foundation for improvements to the Shoal Creek Trail.

WHERE: Shoal Creek pedestrian bridge, one block west of 3rd and Nueces. Spring residential tower will provide the visual backdrop.

WHEN: Noon Wednesday, March 3rd

The House On The Hill: Norwood House

The House On The Hill: Norwood House

Norwood House Garden

Norwood House Garden

You know that house on the south bank of the lake, just west of and next to I35?  It’s on the top of the hill?  You’ve undoubtedly seen it if you’ve been to the dog park on Riverside Drive.

That’s the Norwood House in Travis Heights, and it needs your help.

The first time you look at that house you ask yourself, WTF?  “Look at that view of downtown Austin… how could this house be allowed to deteriorate?”  The answer: the City of Austin purchased it in 1985.

Ironically, in a city that’s known for having a plan for everything, including making plans, the city didn’t have a plan for this.

Norwood House today

Norwood House today

Originally constructed in 1922 by Ollie and Calie Norwood, the house quickly became one of Austin’s most notable residences. Here you can see the house in its glory days. Tennis courts, tea gardens, and a dramatic view across the river (it wasn’t a lake at the time) of downtown Austin.   Ollie Norwood is the name behind downtown Austin’s Norwood Tower.

The house has been examined and can be saved.  The Austin Parks Foundation is partnering with a group of activists called the “Norwood Posse” to raise funds to rehabilitate the house.  Since the house is part of Austin’s park system, its use must be open to the public.  If you would like more information, or to contribute to Norwood House’s rehabilitation you can contact Wolf Sittler at 447-2150, email restorenorwood [@] yahoo.com, or visit AustinParks.org.

-Jude

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.