Waterloo Park, open greenspace in downtown Austin, coming to life

Major engineering features are now in place at Waterloo Park.

On Monday, crews could be seen working on landscaping, retaining walls, and railings. “It’s exciting to see the park coming to life,” said Melissa Ayala.

Ayala is with the Waterloo Greenway Conservancy.

The group provided FOX 7 Austin with an exclusive tour of the property. “It’s a different Waterloo park for sure," said Ayala.

The view from above clearly shows the park, near the medical center between Trinity and Red River, remains an active construction site. The park has been closed for nearly a decade waiting most of that time for the groundbreaking.

The goal is to have everything completed & renovated by the spring of 2021.

Phase 1, which is the park rebuild, broke ground in 2017 and had an original cost estimate of $64 million. The price now is $65 million.

About half of the overall budget is being paid for through fundraising. “We really think that Waterloo Greenway and Waterloo Park is a generational investment for our whole community to enjoy. “ said Ayala.

A sky bridge winds above a playscape for children with a granite slide, a small performance area, and connections to more than a mile of trails.

The main feature of the project is the massive amphitheater. With capacity at about 5,000, it will be one of the largest venues in town. A white glass-topped canopy above the stage was designed with clouds in mind.

Expectations are also pretty high. “If you think about what central park is to New York that’s what Waterloo Park and Waterloo Greenway will be for Austin,” said Ayala.

In an area designated as the Hill Country Garden, some of the old retaining walls from the original park remains. Initials and words carved in the stone years ago can still be seen.

The timing for this project has been dictated by a completely different project: the Waller Creek flood tunnel. The diversion of floodwaters from downtown was the reasoning for the massive tunnel. But construction costs increased and flaws decreased its flow capacity.

Addressing all that caused delays, under and above ground. A lawsuit over the tunnel remains in litigation.

The original goal was to have the park open late last year.

“The Waller Creek flood control tunnel had to be completed before we could open but it is great because we can control the flooding that typically has taken over Waller Creek we can build up these public spaces that surround Waller Creek and really re-open them for the community to enjoy,” said Ayala.

Phase 2 & 3, which involves improvements downstream to Lady Bird Lake, are not expected to be completed until 2026.

A century oak near the amphitheater is symbolic of the park project. It was once located on the Northside of the Capitol Complex. It’s move to the park was also a slow process. But its survival, like the park itself, is an example of a rebirth; with something old becoming new again.