AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Parks planners have big ideas for a section of prime waterfront real estate that isn’t being used. The Parks Department, along with non-profits The Trail Foundation and Austin Parks Foundation are pushing development along the Seaholm Waterfront, where the city’s old water intake building sits empty.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Department spent the past year gathering public input, and The Trail Foundation and Austin Parks Foundation pitched in $450,000 to study the best uses for the three-acre space along Lady Bird Lake. Currently, there are no city funds allotted for actual development.
“The public input told us people wanted to eat and drink and relax here, they wanted to access the water here, and they wanted to gather with friends here,” said Austin Trails Foundation executive director Heidi Anderson.
Following the study, plans include trail improvements, kayak docks and possibly even an amphitheater, all centering around the old water intake building. The building, Anderson says, would be repurposed into a large, open-air room with no roof, lots of space for sitting and even a coffee shop or restaurant.
“The room would be flexible and multi-functional, so that if we wanted to program it with an art exhibit or a concert here and there, or a special event, the room could be transformed into something like that,” Anderson said.
A feasibility study several years back and an international design competition for renovating the space sparked hopes in the past that the building would be brought back to life. Parks planners say this time, however, they have a better foundation to make that happen, because of the public-private partnership they’ve created, with funding for initial studies.
However, planners say the finished product will likely still take years. They plan to roll out the changes in phases and work on gathering funding along the way.
“It is definitely a marathon, not a sprint,” Anderson said. “We want to do it right. We want to bring something spectacular to our city.”
Parks planners will take the results of the study to different city boards and commissions and then the city council over the next few months. After that, they plan to start on phase one of the project before the end of the year. The first phase will include cleaning out and making structural fixes to the old intake building.
“There’s a lot of work to be done first, just to get the facility into good shape, so that we can start allowing people into it, so they can see the space, enjoy the space and get a sense of what’s to come,” Anderson said.