Waller Creek renewal

Austin architect Larry Speck among semifinalists in Waller Creek design competition

Austin architect Larry Speck among semifinalists in Waller Creek design competition

Austin Photo Set: News_Karen_Larry Speck_Waller Creek_jan 2012_headshot
Austin architect Larry Speck, who is among semifinalists in Waller Creek design competition.

The semifinalists for an international competition to redesign Waller Creek in downtown Austin will be made public late Sunday, and Austin architect Larry Speck is on that list, sources told CultureMap on Saturday night.

Nine design teams from around the world have been notified that they will move to stage II of the competition. From there, the field will be narrowed down in April to the finalists who will start submitting designs and ideas to the public by the end of next year. 

Officials with the Waller Creek Conservancy, charged with rebuilding and renewing the blighted creek area, declined to release the names, but sources said Speck, who was interviewed in December by CultureMap about his entry into the competition, was on the list. Speck is an Austinite and UT professor whose handiwork can be seen in such Austin icons as the Town Lake complex, the Second Street District and the Austin Convention Center.

Also included in his long list of accomplishments is Discovery Green in Houston, a project Waller Creek advocates and designers of all stripes have called an incredible success story and perfect illustration of how one well-designed urban space can completely transform the way a city’s residents enjoy their hometown. Speck is a principal in the architectural firm of PageSoutherlandPage in Austin.

“It’s a really, really important project,” he told CultureMap last month. “Everybody’s out there looking for those moments where you can do a Discovery Green or a High Line in New York or a San Antonio Riverwalk, and really be able to see a palpable change in a city that comes from some kind of physical gesture like that.”

Waller Creek, certainly, is one of those moments. Burbling dankly between its polluted banks in a flood plain that doubles as a flop house and waste repository, Waller Creek has long been a blessing and a bane for Austin, which in recent years has worked hard to revitalize the downtown area but has never been able to develop Waller for flood reasons. 

Even in the 1980s, when Speck was a cub architect working on the Town Lake complex, people were talking about building a tunnel under the creek to divert the floodwaters and make development feasible. 

Better late than never. The tunnel is finally under construction and the conservancy hopes to have designs ready to show the public later this year.