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Waller Creek, I-35, and a Council Session That Could Transform Austin

Filipa Rodrigues

The Austin City Council is getting ready for summer recess, but before members take off they’ve been approving projects that eventually could drastically change the look and feel of the city. Thursday’s session may not have seemed like a game-changer, but it has huge implications for the future.

Most of the projects passed on uneventful 7-0 votes. The Council approved negotiations to buy 25 years’ worth of wind-generated electricity, an environmental and financial study that may radically transform I-35, and the architectural design for Waller Creek that may eventually become Austin’s jewel.

Earlier this month, lead architect Michael Van Valkenburg showed the council a rich visual presentation of the expected before and after. In his vision, existing parks east and west of I-35 will be connected.

“Taking down those buildings and regrading it and planting it so that an area that looks like this now would open up to the water’s edge,” Van Valkenburg said. “We’re seeing this as especially child- and young-person oriented.”

Parks such as this one are years, maybe 20 years, in the making. So the steps taken Thursday by the Austin City Council will be felt 20 or even 30 years from now.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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