Blurring the line : expanding the public realm through public-private partnerships along Waller Creek in Austin, Texas




Sharpe, Stephen Lee

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Recent completion of a mile-long flood-control tunnel beneath the urban core of Austin, Texas, promises to reconfigure a large swath of its downtown. The tunnel receives storm water runoff that previously flowed into Waller Creek, a long-neglected waterway historically prone to catastrophic flooding. With the massive public works project having removed 28 acres from the creek’s 100-year flood plain by virtually eliminating the threat of future inundation, wholesale redevelopment of the area has begun. Concurrently, plans are moving forward to create a linear greenway that will snake through 15 downtown blocks along the newly tamed creek channel. Supporters of the greenway see the parkland improvements as a catalyst for private development on adjacent sites. To ensure that parkland isn’t isolated from adjacent private parcels, several public-private partnerships have been forged to integrate the public and private realms. As further redevelopment takes place, additional partnership opportunities are likely to arise. This report details several public-private partnerships that already have helped expand the greenway’s public realm, and also highlights opportunities for similar mutually beneficial partnerships.


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