Today, Waller Creek Conservancy, in partnership with the City of Austin, celebrated the official groundbreaking of the Waller Creek project at Waterloo Park.
The Waller Creek project is a chain of urban parks around a restored Waller Creek in downtown Austin, running one-and-a-half miles from Lady Bird Lake to 15th Street between Trinity Street and IH-35. When complete, the Waller Creek project will include 37 acres of newly designed and connected urban parks.
“As our city continues to grow and thrive, we must ensure that our beloved green spaces do the same,” said Mayor Steve Adler. “The Waller Creek project will create a world-class green space that will be the legacy we leave for future generations to enjoy.”
“There is a rich history of community here and the Waller Creek Conservancy builds on that tradition of connecting people to one another in a natural, outdoor setting,” remarked Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria. “Waller Creek holds a special place in my heart because I attended Palm School, played in Palm Park and swam in the creek growing up.”
Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, whose District 9 includes a large portion of Downtown, said, “The Waller Creek chain of parks will provide opportunities for families and children to integrate into the Downtown fabric in new and exciting ways. From attending cultural events and fun activities in Waterloo Park to learning about natural ecology along the creek itself, people of all ages and abilities will learn, play and grow at Waller Creek.”
The Waller Creek project will connect more than three miles of new bicycle and pedestrian trails, house engaging art, host musical and cultural performances, and provide educational community programming.
“Today in Austin, there is constant dialogue about change – the good, the bad and the ugly. Waller Creek is a project that has an opportunity to bring all sectors of the community together in meaningful ways that will honor our shared histories and ensure that inclusivity is an essential ingredient for this public space in the future,” Council Member Ora Houston added.
Embedded in the foundation of this project is a commitment to building community, and the groundbreaking ceremony reflected that spirit. Following remarks from Mayor Adler, Mayor Pro Tem Tovo, City Council Member Renteria, City Council Member Houston, Waller Creek Conservancy CEO Peter Mullan and Moody Foundation Trustee Ross Moody, all attendees participated in a dedication ceremony, planting seeds that will be taken to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, a vital partner in the project, to be utilized in their youth education program.
“Today is a reminder that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change our world. When Melanie Barnes, Melba Whatley and I co-founded the Waller Creek Conservancy seven years ago, our dreams were ambitious and included restoring the ecology of the creek, developing vibrant parks and places that matter while improving connections east and west and north and south. Today is the result of the contributions of many in our community, and I am grateful to each of them for getting us to this moment,” said Tom Meredith, chairman and co-founder of Waller Creek Conservancy.
Melanie Barnes, secretary and co-founder, added, “Since the earliest days of the design competition, we have prioritized nature, culture and community in our vision for Waller Creek’s future. This project is about revealing and restoring a unique, beautiful landscape. We look to strengthen the Austin community by connecting us more closely to the environment and to each other.”
The parks are designed to accommodate the wide variety of ways Austinites use outdoor spaces and to promote connections between the diverse groups of people who find common ground in their affection for and use of free, public parks.
Council Member Leslie Pool reflected, “Austin loves its parks and we have worked hard to get parks the resources they deserve. Throughout the years, there has been strong interest in leveraging the potential community benefits of an improved Waller Creek and this unique partnership between the City of Austin and the Waller Creek Conservancy has made this dream possible.”
In 2011, the Waller Creek Conservancy launched an international design competition. Following a public engagement process, the competition jury selected the idea for a chain of parks as proposed by renowned landscape architecture firm Michael van Valkenburgh and Associates, Inc. (MVVA). The Waller Creek Design Plan was adopted by the Austin City Council in 2013.
“From the beginning we conceived of this project planted on the bedrock of great design. We believed then and now that only careful, deliberate design and planning would deliver a great public space worthy of all Austinites. Kudos to MVVA and city staff for moving this credo from belief to reality,” said Melba Whatley, president and co-founder of the Waller Creek Conservancy.
The total project cost is estimated to be $230M. The project will be completed in phases with the first phase being Waterloo Park. Waterloo Park is estimated to cost $64M and is expected to open to the public in late 2019.
Upon completion, the Waller Creek project will serve as an outdoor gathering place for all of Austin. The chain of parks, connected by bicycle and pedestrian trails, will host community events, musical and cultural performances and more.
“Waller Creek will represent a new kind of public open space for the City of Austin, but one that taps into Austin’s core DNA,” says Peter Mullan, CEO of Waller Creek Conservancy. “Waller Creek will be a place where members of the entire community can come together and celebrate their shared identity as Austinites. Groundbreaking represents a major milestone towards making this visionary project a reality.”
Today’s event took place at Waterloo Park, located along Red River Street between 12th Street and 15th Street. An 11-acre space along Waller Creek and the largest in the Waller Creek chain of parks, Waterloo Park will be a hub of activity for Austinites and visitors.
The design for Waterloo Park is centered around a great lawn and outdoor amphitheater designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners. It will also feature a variety of other garden and park spaces at different scales, including a Hill Country garden, an elevated promenade, water features, meditative spaces and children’s play spaces. The Waller Creek Conservancy will activate Waterloo Park with diverse and inclusive programming, cultural events and public art.
Earlier this year, the Moody Foundation announced a $15M grant dedicated to Waterloo Park and the amphitheater which will now bear the Moody name. Moody Foundation Trustee Ross Moody was on hand for today’s celebration. He noted, “The transformation of Waller Creek will have a tremendous impact on the way that our children and grandchildren experience this city. I continue to be impressed by the way both local government and the philanthropic community alike have thrown their support behind this project. Today represents a tremendous accomplishment and we must continue to build on this momentum, bolstering community and financial support from now through opening day and beyond.”