Waterloo Greenway set to begin second phase of project

Ireland Blouin, Senior News Reporter

Phase two of the Waterloo Greenway Conservancy project is set to begin construction this spring. The project plans to create a 1.5-mile park system encompassing 35 acres of land that will connect 15th Street to Lady Bird Lake.

Construction is being broken up into three different phases and is expected to take about 10 years to complete. The first phase, which spans from 12th to 15th Street, includes Waterloo Park and the Moody Amphitheater. The phase was completed during the summer of 2021. The second phase, known as The Confluence, will span nine acres of land from Lady Bird Lake to 4th Street.

The project will connect UT to Lady Bird Lake as well as all other existing public spaces and destinations on the eastern side of downtown once it is complete. It will also create over three miles of ADA accessible trails along the restored Waller Creek.

“We’re going to meet in the middle,” said John Rigdon, director of planning and design at Waterloo Greenway Conservancy. “So once done, it will bring all of that together and create new parks and open space for the community.”

On Jan. 18, the Waller Creek Local Government Corporation approved a contract with Jay-Reese Contractors Inc. for phase two of the project. A different company completed phase one.

“The city of Austin selects the low(est) bidder, but there are very strict qualifications required for a low bidder to be selected,” Rigdon said. “Jay-Reese has a tremendous amount of experience with working with the city of Austin, also with public projects in particular.”

Waterloo started the project to address decades of flooding on lower Waller Creek, the most urbanized watershed in Austin. As the city developed, the watershed experienced flash floods, which led to loss of life and millions of dollars of property as the city developed around it, Rigdon said. The city decided to build a flood control tunnel to mitigate these flood events. 

The city reached out to co-founders of Waterloo Greenway Conservancy, Melba Whatley, Melanie Barnes and Tom Meredith to ask them to partner with the city and come up with a way to build a world-class park and public open space along Waller Creek.

The project will help wildlife thrive along with the Austin community, which will be reintroduced to a historically neglected part of downtown, said Diana Wang, project manager for the watershed protection department.

Wang said it will create a space for people to walk and bike from point A to point B while surrounded by flowers and trees in the densely populated downtown area.

“These improvements are going to bring back a lot of wildlife in that area, so they’ll have the opportunity to see birds and fish in the creek in the middle of downtown,” Wang said.