The Waller Creek Conservancy now aims to complete its Central Austin parks projects on an accelerated timeline after Austin Mayor Steve Adler proposed this month additional funding for several downtown improvements.
“We’ve previously projected that the project would take 7 to 10 years to complete, if the funding were to be available,” Waller Creek CEO Peter Mullan said in an email. “The current proposal will give us the ability to accelerate our achievement of that goal.”
Adler has proposed expanding the Waller Creek Tax Increment Financing District, or TIF, which was originally started in 2008 to fund a tunnel that diverts floodwaters from the creek.
Property owners in the TIF are assessed a tax based on the difference in their property’s 2008 value and the current fiscal year’s property value. That money is used to issue debt to pay for improvements inside the district, which runs from Waterloo Park to Lady Bird Lake.
The TIF expires and the city will stop collecting those dollars in 2028. Adler said if the length of time money is collected in the TIF is extended until 2041, it will bring an additional $110 million to the restoration of Waller Creek and its parks.
According to Adler, The Waller Creek Conservancy has pledged matching funds through philanthropic and private investments.
The mayor said if the TIF also expands geographically, it would bring in an additional $30 million in one-time capital expenses for Waller Creek.
“Having this level of certainty about public funding, in addition to our ongoing fundraising efforts, would allow us to complete the project by 2025,” Mullan said in a news release.
The conservancy’s long-term plans include building a continuous pedestrian and cycling trail from the Butler Trail to The University of Texas and a new pedestrian bridge across Lady Bird Lake. It will also reconstruct and restore the 1.5-mile lower Waller Creek into a sustainable riparian ecological system, transform the 11-acre Waterloo Park and Palm Park into highly programmed urban destination parks and create new park space along Waller Creek between Seventh and Ninth streets.
In May, the conservancy held two open houses and an online survey as part of its “Waller Creek Conservations” to hear what improvements the community wanted.
Five priorities emerged out of the community meetings, according to the conservancy:
- Access to parks
- Arts & culture
“The adjacent and non-adjacent communities are looking for a source of relaxation and recreation while seeking to be immersed in nature,” the conservancy wrote in a feedback report released July 25.
Austin City Council will have to vote on the mayor’s proposal to extend the TIF. Adler said he hopes to bring a resolution to council directing the city manager to begin work on the plan by the end of August.