Waller Creek Conservancy announces CEO, plans
New Waller Creek Conservancy CEO Peter Mullan said Wednesday that he plans to join the city in “pushing the envelope on what is possible” for the ambitious Waller Creek redevelopment project.
At a news conference announcing his selection, Mullan addressed Mayor Steve Adler. “I’m excited to work closely with you and your colleagues, (City Manager) Marc Ott, (Assistant City Manager) Sue Edwards and the rest of their team, as well as all of the members of the new City Council, to ensure that Waller Creek fulfills its full potential for the city.”
In a news release, the conservancy detailed the status of plans to “transform” Palm Park and Waterloo Park and develop three new parks. “The intake structure being constructed by the City of Austin at Waterloo Park is on track for completion,” it reads. “The (Waterloo Park) tunnel and other drainage features are virtually complete.”
Waller Creek runs from Lady Bird Lake to Waterloo Park at 15th Street and is about 1 1/2 miles in length. The redevelopment project is a public-private partnership between the city and Waller Creek Conservancy, a nonprofit founded in 2010.
In 2012, the partners hired a design team made up of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Thomas Phifer & Partners to turn 28 acres of land along the creek into a chain of five continuous parks.
Before accepting his position, Mullan was executive vice president of Friends of the High Line, a nonprofit organization that played a major role in redeveloping a disused rail line in New York City into a public park.
Though not yet a resident of Austin, Mullan said that his goal for Waller Creek is to make it into something that is specific to the city and reflects the community and its values.
“I think that one of the things that’s clear about the work that’s been done to date is that it’s really focused on nature and ecology,” Mullan said, “restoring the existing ecology, supporting it, stabilizing it and enhancing it so that this is really a green space that attracts people and connects people.”
Mullan said he wants to continue to follow that path. He also clarified that, though some have compared the Waller Creek redevelopment to San Antonio’s River Walk, that comparison applies better to the scope of the project than the design. “River Walk … I understand, is highly commercialized,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the answer here.”
Adler put the project’s timeline into perspective. “This is a public-private partnership that will establish a series of transformative projects to be built out over many years,” he said. “This is a project, too, that probably we’ll continue building and growing over the next 100 years.”
However, Adler clarified, “It will be something that the city doesn’t wait 100 years to enjoy. There will be parts of this project and these parks that will be coming on line, and it’ll just be more and more to enjoy over time.”
Mullan echoed this statement. “I understand that people are eager to get going and get started, so 2015 is going to be a big year for us, and we’re going to see some new things,” he said. “But again, these are big, long-term projects. You have to think about, not a two-year or three-year horizon — and we want to get the thing built as quickly as possible — but the impact of this is going to be far greater, and so the priority is to make sure we get it right.”
Adler acknowledged that there may be challenges along the way, as is often the case when working with limited resources, but that the partnership will work with the private sector and philanthropists in Austin and around the country to continue to raise the necessary resources.
Mullan was optimistic about working with a diverse array of stakeholders on the project, referring to the process as working under a “big tent.”
“Government is important, local community groups are important, the people who are going to be contributing private funds to help build it, they’re important,” Mullan said. “There’s no reason why it can’t be a win-win for the entire city and all of these diverse stakeholders.”
Image courtesy of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates / Waller Creek Conservancy
Do you like this story?
There are so many important stories we don't get to write. As a nonprofit journalism source, every contributed dollar helps us provide you more coverage. Do your part by joining our subscribers in supporting our reporters' work.
Key Players & Topics In This Article
Waller Creek Conservancy: The conservancy group transforming Austin's Waller Creek.
Waller Creek Tunnel: The Waller Creek Tunnel is a major infrastructure project running through the heart of downtown Austin. Its construction will ultimately allow the removal of some properties in the region from the floodplain.