Downtown
4:00 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Making the Pitch for Waller Creek

Could Waller Creek – currently a flood-prone, trash-strewn downtown creek – ultimately stand along New York’s High Line Park and Chicago’s Millennium Park as a premier urban space?

That was one of the rosy assessments the Real Estate Council of Austin shared at a lunchtime talk about the future of the Waller Creek, and its potential as a central riverwalk-style district.

Plans for redeveloping Waller Creek have lurched along with little success dating back to the 1970s. Things began falling into place in 2007, when the city and the county developed a financing agreement to pay for the tunnel that would create a steady flow, and preventing flooding.

The Waller Creek tunnel will remove 28 acres of land in eastern downtown Austin from the 100 year floodplain, said Stephanie McDonald, executive director of the Waller Creek Conservancy Group. Tom Meredith, former CFO of Dell and Motorola, compared Waller’s potential to renowned public spaces like Millennium Park.

The conservancy has received $400,000 from the City of Austin, and has raised almost $1 million in the past few years. In order to pick a design team for the project, the conservancy held an international competition which received submissions from 31 groups around the world.

The contest is currently entering its third stage, where the four teams of finalists will each submit outlines for the layout of the improved creek. The conservancy will meet in October to pick a lead architect for the future riverwalk.

The timing of today’s talk doesn’t seem entirely coincidental. Tonight and tomorrow, citizens are invited to help set spending priorities for a November 2012 bond election – and among the items for consideration are funds for Waller Creek improvements.