Austin City Council approves Waller Creek design, joint development agreement

The Waller Creek Redevelopment Project and corresponding design are closer to implementation after Austin City Council approved the joint development agreement and design plans June 20.

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said the approval of the agreement and design was a "happy day."

"The process of actually finding people in the conservancy who would commit to take this project was not easy because it has not been done in Austin—a true public-private partnership where individual, private citizens come together and say, 'Let's make our central downtown a crown jewel for the entire city,'" Cole said.

According to officials, the joint development agreement between the city of Austin, the Waller Creek Conservancy and the Waller Creek Local Government Corporation allows all parties to have their ideas and concerns heard and considered as progress is made on the project.

One point of concern from the public about the design of the redevelopment was over the proposed pontoon bridge that would span Lady Bird Lake.

Kourtney de Haas, service president of the Waller Creek Boathouse–based Austin Rowing Club, said the ARC supports the redevelopment of Waller Creek but wants to make sure the pontoon bridge portion of the plan has stakeholder input.

"Any fixture placed in Lady Bird Lake must consider the full range-of-use cases and possibilities of public interaction," de Haas said.

Roy Waley, vice chairman of the Austin Chapter of the Sierra Club, said his organization also is concerned about the proposed pontoon bridge but supports having more green space, pedestrian and cyclist access in Central Austin.

"We have so few opportunities; let's make this something really good to add park space where we need it," Waley said. "We need it everywhere, but this is a rare opportunity, and we need to take advantage of it."

The Austin Sierra Club is a volunteer organization that promotes environmental conservation and education.

One significant amendment council made to the Waller Creek District was to make cocktail lounges a conditional use rather than a permitted use. The conditional use means that businesses wanting to operate as a cocktail lounge would have to go through an extra step in order for their business to be approved by city staff.

"In fact, I think that it's really critical that we make sure the details of this are right and serve the community in a successful way," Councilwoman Laura Morrison said.

Stephanie McDonald, executive director of the WCC, said the conservancy would be happy to have cocktail lounges be a conditional use in the Waller Creek District.