Austin Mayor Steve Adler helped kick off the construction of the $230 million Waller Creek project on Wednesday morning during a non-traditional ground-breaking at the once and future Waterloo Park.
"It's a big infrastructure project. This is not really a park in the traditional sense. It sort of combines park spaces with infrastructure," said Waller Creek Conservancy CEO Peter Mullan.
Waller Creek brings back good memories for some Austin City Council Members like District 3's Pio Renteria who grew up swimming in Waller Creek.
"There was the most beautiful swimming hole there and people actually had let go of their goldfish and tropical fish so it was just so beautiful swimming with all of those tropical, colorful fish that were there. It was just so much fun," Renteria said.
Peter Mullan is the CEO of the Waller Creek Conservancy, a non-profit founded to work on the revitalization of the creek in partnership with the city. The new Waterloo Park will have a little something for everyone.
"There'll be quiet, contemplative places where you can really immerse yourself in nature. At the same time we'll also do big events here because that's something that brings people together," Mullan said.
Waterloo will also feature an amphitheater, restaurant and a great lawn. The 11-acre park is just the first part of the overall project that will include 37 acres of urban parks and public open space stretching all the way from Lady Bird Lake.
Mullan says the $230 million is made up of private and public dollars..
"We've raised a bunch of money. We've got some public money. We've still got some to raise so we're not all finished but we're going to get there and we've got enough where we can move forward," Mullan said.
Waterloo isn't in Mayor Pro-Tem Kathie Tovo's district but she says the southern part of the project is.
"One of the things that's on our agenda in the weeks moving forward will be whether to consider to change some parameters of the tiff which would provide some really needed funding to help match the efforts of the Waller Creek Conservancy," Tovo said.
The Waller Creek tunnel is a City of Austin project totaling a little more than $160 million. A city representative told me construction is expected to wrap up by the end of this year.
Mullan says the tunnel is the foundation for all of the work.
"It's the thing that makes the parks possible. By controlling the waterflow and then actually channeling the waterflow back into the creek where it can support robust and restored ecology," Mullan said.
Again, Waterloo Park should be open to the public in late 2019. Waller Delta, Palm Park and The Refuge will be phased in over the next 10 years.