First Look: Waterloo Park – Downtown Austin’s Newest Urban Green Space

Learn about the park’s history, exciting new improvements, conservation efforts, and how WGI has been involved every step of the way.
Waterloo Park

Waterloo Park, named after the original Central Texas town we all know as Austin, is finally reopening to the public on Saturday, August 14th, 2021, after being closed for almost a decade to make way for construction of the Waller Creek flood control tunnel. 

History of Waterloo Park

Waterloo Park first opened in 1975 as part of 1970’s urban renewal efforts along Red River Street and Waller Creek. It was a popular destination over the years for numerous concerts, festivals such as Fun Fun Fun Fest and Spamarama, and other events until it was closed for construction. 

Waterloo Greenway Phase MapThe First Link in the Chain

The Waterloo Park project is the first phase of a multimillion-dollar comprehensive restoration of lower Waller Creek, called the Waterloo Greenway park system. The overall project will stretch from 15th street all the way to Ladybird Lake and will eventually connect Waller Creek, Waterloo Park, the Butler Hike and Bike Trail and other green spaces, for a total of 35 acres of public land. The 1.5 mile chain of parks will be connected by bicycle and pedestrian trails and will host community gatherings, musical and cultural performances, and many other events in the future. 

Awe-Inspiring Improvements 

The 11 acre park is the largest of all the parks within the new system, and will feature hike-and-bike trails, an elevated promenade, custom-built playscapes, multiple gardens, and wetland spaces. 

The crown jewel of the park is the brand new 5000-seat Moody Amphitheater designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners, which the entire park is centered around.

Moody Theater

“Waterloo Park is one way the City and partners are supporting the collective expression of Austin’s diverse and creative spirit. The reopening of this space will provide the community reimagined play spaces, relaxing leisure areas, and build upon Austin’s offerings of some of the greatest outdoor live events in the nation,” said Mayor Steve Adler.

Preservation and Conservation Efforts

Over 500 trees were added to the park, including 4 Heritage Trees from around the Austin area. There are a total of 90,000 plant species on the site, most of which are native to Central Texas. The environmentally friendly space will also feature green roofs, rain gardens, and an irrigation system that pumps straight from the adjacent Waller Creek. Even the toilets throughout the park will flush with reclaimed water!

Waterloo Park native plants

“We’re honoring the culture of the area, while building a place that is a vital part of what Austin will become, said Kathy Miller, Interim CEO of Waterloo Greenway. Visitors to the park will see historical details like the park’s original retaining walls in the Hill Country Gardens, scribed with hand-written notes that date back to the 1970s. The preservation of heritage live oak trees throughout the park is a nod to its history, and we look forward to launching new community programming to ensure all feel welcome in this inclusive and equitable space.”

Waller Creek in Waterloo Park

The Waller Creek Tunnel, just west of the wetland area in the park, removes more than 28 acres of downtown from the floodplain, helping to protect dozens of structures and roadways from flash flooding. It also helps reduce bank erosion during wet times and pump water from Lady Bird Lake back into Waller Creek during drier periods.

It Takes A Village

WGI was selected to provide Civil Engineering services for Waterloo Park, as well as the overall Waterloo Greenway Park System. The project required extensive and complex coordination between multiple landscape designers, planners, engineers, watershed specialists, and a wide array of City departments.

WGI was just one of many entities eager to team up and collaborate on this epic revitalization effort between Waterloo Greenway, The City of Austin and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. (MVVA). Other partners who helped with this endeavor include but are not limited to: dwg., AEC, EEA, Michael Hsu Office of Architecture, DPR Construction and Peabody General Contractors

Waterloo Park & Waller Creek
Some of the site challenges included extensive utility coordination during design and construction on three public streets bounding the park and numerous existing easements within the park, study of massing associated with Capitol View Corridor overlays, accommodation of multiple relocations of large heritage trees, and coordination with accessibility specialists for the unique and challenging topography of the site.

Not Our First Rodeo

We’ve done many complex projects like this and we’re ready to collaborate with your team on the next one. Contact us today and let’s discuss how we can create the next signature urban park in your city!

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