Waller Creek project looks to make joint development agreement with city

The Waller Creek Conservancy will be asking June 20 to join in a development agreement with the City of Austin and the Waller Creek Local Government Corporation to help solidify design concepts and construction plans.

Stephanie McDonald, executive director of the Waller Creek Conservancy, said joint development agreement allows all the parties interested in the project to have their ideas and concerns raised and considered.

"It gives us a process for all of us to have a seat at the table," McDonald said. "It may be that some of the projects are [constructed] by the conservancy and some maybe be constructed by the city, but either way, we all have a voice as to how it's constructed."

McDonald spoke to the Austin City Council on June 6 about the project, along with city staff and Michael Van Valkenburgh, president and CEO of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates—a landscape architecture firm selected as part of a team to design the project.

"It's a very exciting project," Van Valkenburgh said. "I think that it's a very forward-looking moment. It's a project that's thinking about the future."

The Waller Creek Redevelopment Project encompasses about 1.5 miles of Waller Creek and a total area of about 28 acres from about Waterloo Park down to Lady Bird Lake. The Waller Creek Tunnel Project, a 5,600 foot long tunnel built underground to divert flood waters from the creek, is taking acreage out of the flood plain which allows for this redevelopment."

The joint development agreement will be for 20 years and establish the policy that funding for phases in the redevelopment would be in place before being constructed. The three groups would work together to produce a phase plan, and the city would approve any proposed use of public funds for project.

The Waller Creek Local Government Corporation was created in April 2011 to implement financing, design and construction of some projects in the Waller Creek Redevelopment Project. Their role in the joint agreement would be to review the work done by the city and the conservancy.

McDonald said because of the phase approach, the conservancy does not yet have an idea for the total budget of the project. She said there will be a better idea of the cost as more design and planning is done on the projects.

"Until we kind of get the blessing up front, it's hard to get all of this in place," McDonald said. "We need to have approval that we're going in the right direction and that's essentially what we're asking for on the 20th."

Van Valkenburgh said with the way he envisions the project, it he believes can be a signature piece of the city.

"I think that Waller Creek has the potential of being a place that all of Austin feels like it owns and is proud of," Van Valkenburgh said.

Council will formally consider the agreement in August. For more information on the Waller Creek Conservancy and the redevelopment project, visit www.wallercreek.org.


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