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Austin's ambitious transformation of Waller Creek into 'Central Park' reveals new name
For nearly a decade, Waller Creek Conservancy has spearheaded the revitalization of Waller Creek, an urban waterway that begins in North Austin, and snakes through neighborhoods such as North Loop, Hyde Park, and the University of Texas campus before it hits downtown and eventually pours into Lady Bird Lake.
As part of its mission, the conservancy has transformed stretches of the downtown waterway into usable public space, perhaps most notably during the annual Creek Show art installation and Waller Creek Picnic, two of the organization's signature events.
Waller Creek Conservancy has also partnered with the City of Austin on the revitalization of Waterloo Park, set to open in 2020. The park is phase one of an ambitious, multimillion-dollar project that will eventually connect Waller Creek, Waterloo Park, the Butler Hike and Bike Trail, and other green spaces to create the "Central Park of Austin." In total, 35 acres of public land would be redeveloped, including ecological restorations and a new connection between Waterloo Park and Symphony Square.
Though the project has been in the works for years, it wasn't until August 21 that it officially had a name: Waterloo Greenway. During a public celebration at Symphony Square with Mayor Steve Adler and other civic leaders, the new name, a nod to the city's original moniker, was unveiled.
“This park and what it represents, extends far beyond you and me. It is timeless — a legacy that will endure for our children and our children’s children. What Central Park is for New York City, Waterloo
Greenway will be for Austin," said Mayor Adler in a release. "Because of this project, Austin will be smarter, greener, healthier, more creative, more connected, and more equitable.”
In addition to the project name, the conservancy also announced its own name change. Henceforth, Waller Creek Conservancy will be known as Waterloo Greenway Conservancy. The name also comes with a new look designed by Toronto-based Bruce Mau Design, which will be incorporated into the park's branding, too.
“This is a major turning point for us," says Peter Mullan, CEO of the newly minted Waterloo Greenway Conservancy. "Up until now, our vision was aspirational; it was a concept, a collection of places and ideas, and it lacked a name to unify it. Now, it is tangible — something we can live, feel, and experience together."
There are, of course, still hurdles for the conservancy and the city to jump before Waterloo Greenway is fully a reality, but the impending opening of Waterloo Park, the 11-acre green space near Red River and 15th streets, marks an important milestone.
Moving forward, Waterloo Greenway project will be paid for through a public-private partnership. The estimated cost of the project is $250 million with an additional $110 million estimated for long-term maintenance. Waterloo Greenway Conservancy will oversee private funding through philanthropic endeavors and special events while the city considers things such as a public tax increment reinvestment zone to pay for the project.