We’d be lying if we said the redevelopment of Waterloo Park wasn’t an agonizingly slow process — this downtown Austin park has remained closed to the public since 2011, which means we’re creeping up on nearly a decade without its 11 acres of green space around the banks of Waller Creek between East 12th and East 15th Streets.
Still, the Waterloo Greenway nonprofit — which we’re still trying to remember is no longer called the Waller Creek Conservancy — has big things in mind for Waterloo Park as the crown jewel of its chain of parks planned along this downtown stretch of the creek. That’s one of the reasons why the full project, dancing around a price tag of more than $250 million, has taken a long time to emerge in the physical world.
But an announcement today of a 15-year agreement between the Waterloo Greenway and concert promotion outfits C3 Presents and Live Nation, the former of which is likely best known for that whole Austin City Limits music festival thing, actually provides us with a targeted opening date for the park and its 5,000-capacity Moody Amphitheater venue — that’ll be Fall 2020 if all goes well, with its roster of up to 35 live performances a year kicking off in Spring 2021.
Keeping that in mind, we thought we’d spend a nice day at the park’s construction site and take a few photos for the sake of our readers — kind of a virtual nice day, plus an update on progress at this enormous project. There’s a lot of work left to finish, but we think it’s worth the wait, especially since its potential as a venue is obvious.
The overhead view of the site, though revealing there’s still work to be done, really goes to show how much the park itself has changed since it closed — take a look at this Google Street View from 2011 if you don’t remember what it used to look like:
Since today’s announcement concerns the new park’s ability to serve as a large outdoor live music venue, we thought it was only fair to focus on progress at the Moody Amphitheater — it’s the heart of the park, even with nice spots all around:
The above photo is from last month, but the rest are from last week — you can see some decent progress between the two:
Even though some parking garages get in the way, the view of the Capitol from the park is a nice reminder of where we are — a big space compared to most downtown parks, even if this side is dominated by some really boring state office buildings and the aforementioned excessive garage parking. It’s kind of a ghost town around here in many spots after business hours, so the presence of Waterloo Park and several other nearby projects is going to really increase street-level activity.
The massive cantilevered “great lawn” seen above, extending out over the channelized section of Waller Creek leading into the site’s flood control tunnel, is an engineering marvel. It looks good from all angles — you won’t even realize what you’re standing on once all the grass goes in up top. It’s a “cyborg creek,” remember?
Even though this section of downtown is relatively quiet, one striking thing about touring the Waterloo Park construction site is realizing all of the projects going up around it — below, you can see signs of the ongoing demolition at the Brackenridge medical campus, making way for a promising new development that should bring a lot more attention to this region.
Looking a little further south from Brackenridge, you’ll notice the core of the 29-floor Alexan apartment tower project at 700 East 11th Street starting to show itself — this building’s also a game-changer for the area, in terms of increased foot traffic.
What you can’t see from this angle in the photo above, even though it’s definitely there, is the future site of the 31-story Symphony Square mixed-use development at 1117 Red River Street. Red River Street itself will be realigned as part of the Brackenridge development, apparently transforming the section in front of Waterloo Park into a pedestrian “promenade” not unlike the pedestrianized section of Sabine Street over by that one masonry condo building we love.
Some of the larger heritage trees at the site are being carefully preserved as the project rises around them. From the angle below, underneath the trees and looking north, you can see the beginnings of the Moody Amphitheater’s pavilion structure from a different angle — it’s kind of hard to tell what’s going on unless you compare it with the renderings of the completed amphitheater, but it’s still interesting.
In fact, Waterloo Greenway CEO Peter Mullan brought that same rendering with him for the media folks on the tour to look at — this is the kind of C-suite involvement we love to see from our nonprofit organizations! Seriously, thanks for bringing that.
It’s obvious from these photos that there’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re at a point of progress where it’s easy to see how much everyone’s going to enjoy Waterloo Park once it cements itself as a staple of our local festival scene. You might not have been here for Fun Fun Fun Fest, but we’d love to see that kind of thing returning to the park over the next few years — or, you know, a Spamarama revival. Sky’s the limit, right?