Architect unveils conservancy’s plans for Waller Creek makeover
The joint development agreement between the Waller Creek Conservancy, the City of
The conservancy held a Waller Creek design competition and a jury chose the plans of a team led by world renowned waterfront landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, whose long list of award-winning work includes The Brooklyn Bridge Park. The ambitious concept includes opening up the Waller Creek channel, creating a chain of five public parks, adding a pontoon bridge across
Don’t expect to actually see any cranes or construction workers making this a reality anytime soon, though.
“There’s still a lot of design work that has to happen between the plans and what gets constructed,” said Stephanie McDonald, executive director of the Waller Creek Conservancy. “If this gets approved, there’s still a lot of work to do.”
The city predicts the entire project could take 20 years, in fact. And at a cost of – well, who knows?
“This is a long-term project…it’s hard to discuss cost,” McDonald said. “The idea is to divide the redesign into a set of projects. “We don’t really know which projects will be funded, which will capture the hearts of the private sector and the philanthropic community. Maybe certain things will take priority. Because we’re going to take this project by project, it’s hard for us to give a total cost.”
Some of the work will be paid for by voter-approved bond funds and possibly money from operating or capital improvement funds which council would approve. The city will set up a system by which it will disburse funds for various phases of the project in the same way it has done for other public-private partnerships, “for example, the Zach Scott Topfer Theatre,” Assistant City Attorney Leela Fireside told Council. “We had a mechanism when that got started for how to disburse the bond funds to be used in conjunction with the private funds that were raised by the theatre to build that.”
In addition to funding, another obstacle the Conservancy will face is how to maneuver around or work with private landowners along the creek. McDonald admits, some privately-owned property is incorporated in areas of the breathtakingly green concept. When asked, local real estate developer Perry Lorenz, who owns property along the Creek, said he does find that peculiar.
“I think the design is absolutely fabulous,” he said. “It will be a fabulous thing for
The concept as it is would also entail booting the APD Headquarters building off the land on which it now sits at
“If you walk the creek, there is an existing trail system along publicly-owned space,” she said. “That’s where the priority is. And we will work with landowners and property developers in the future to make sure it does work.”
Assistant City Manager Sue Edwards told Council the city’s transportation department is also involved in the project.
“We are in the process of discussing with transportation the pontoon bridge and the location of (light) rail,” she said. “Wherever the pontoon bridge goes, it will be a joint decision about how we move forward, since we’re going to be moving forward with the pontoon bridge certainly before rail is going to end – if it gets there.”
To which Council Member Laura Morrison asked jokingly, “Are you suggesting that the pontoon bridge serve as a bridge for rail?”
“No,” said Edwards, “We are not.”
Overall, Council members appeared impressed with the concept.
“Almost as exciting as the project itself—the aesthetic—is the model that it begins,” said Mayor Lee Leffingwell. “It’s a public-private partnership which I think can serve as a model, not only for Waller Creek, but other places across the city.”
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