Waller Creek Boathouse event, cafe space will have to move from current location to make way for light rail

The Waller Creek Boathouse's upper portion, which includes a cafe and event space, will have to be relocated due to the construction of a light-rail line. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Waller Creek Boathouse's upper portion, which includes a cafe and event space, will have to be relocated due to the construction of a light-rail line. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Waller Creek Boathouse's upper portion, which includes a cafe and event space, will have to be relocated due to the construction of a light-rail line. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

The planned Blue Line light-rail route that will connect the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to downtown and North Austin will cross over Lady Bird Lake on an above-ground bridge before entering into a tunnel system downtown.

While staff from Capital Metro and the Austin Transit Partnership are still discussing proposed station locations and the rail route, they have said the spot where the rail line crosses the river and enters the tunnel system will necessitate the removal of portions of the Waller Creek Boathouse.

"The upper portion of the boathouse can't be there anymore because of the grades we're going across and then diving into the tunnel; it's not possible to retain the upper portion," ATP Chief Program Officer Dave Couch told the Capital Metro board of directors May 24. "We would very much like and intend to keep the lower portion."

The boathouse is owned by the city of Austin's Parks and Recreation Department and leased by the Austin Rowing Club, a nonprofit that provides rowing opportunities for the community.

The upper portion of the boathouse includes Alta's Café, an all-day spot with a menu including coffee, sandwiches and smoothies as well as an event space available for rentals. According to a statement from Capital Metro, the lower portion of the boathouse contains mechanical equipment for the Waller Creek stormwater tunnel, which will remain in operation during construction.

"We really don't want to try to move the pumps and everything that's there," Couch said.

The loss of the upper portions of the boathouse does not mean the loss of the Austin Rowing Club altogether. According to a spokesperson for the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, the rowing club, city and Capital Metro are involved in ongoing negotiations about finding a new home for the ARC.

Construction of the light-rail lines is scheduled to start in 2024 and last about five years. Capital Metro is in an environmental review process expected to last about two years.

The Blue Line bridge spanning Lady Bird Lake would be located between South Congress Avenue and I-35, connecting the Austin American-Statesman property on the south bank of the river to the Waller Creek Boathouse area to the north.

Peter Mullan, ATP's chief of architecture and urban design, told the ATP board of directors May 19 that it would have facilities for pedestrians and bicycles in addition to carrying the light rail across the lake.

ATP staff is scheduled to present proposed station locations and routes June 16 for the north and south portions of the Orange Line and July 21 for the downtown area where the Orange and Blue Lines converge.

The ARC was not available for comment before the deadline for this story.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at [email protected]


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