Red River venues say Waller Creek project will bring good and bad change


by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE NEWS and Photojournalist Chris Shadrock

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

Posted on July 12, 2013 at 10:25 PM

AUSTIN --  The plans for redevelopment on Waller Creek are finally coming to fruition. Now businesses along the creek are thinking about what it means for them.

Many of the popular music venues on Red River say they're cautiously optimistic because the promise of more business still comes with a price.

Plans to redevelop Waller Creek have been more than a dozen years in the making. As of June the project is approved and moving forward.

Above the creek this Friday night, bars and music venues are preparing for another busy weekend.

"You can park your car and see 4 to 5 shows in one night on foot. That doesn't exist hardly anywhere in the United States," said James Moody who owns The Mohawk on Red River.

Moody says he's been following the Waller Creek plans for years.

"A good project in Austin actually should involve culture and music and the mix of food, music and art that Austin's known for," he said.

The Waller Creek District Redevelopment project promises a series of 5 connected parks from the University of Texas to Lady Bird Lake.

Moody says he worries the project will change the culture that makes this section of downtown so unique and on top of that many businesses along Red River fear a hike in their rent.

"The market will have to adjust and react," Moody explained.

Stubbs General Manager Ryan Garrett says the project actually allows their business to grow.

"It's going to allow us to develop some space that previously we haven't been able to do so," Garrett explained. "We're in a BBQ craze. You can't turn on television, Travel Channel, Food Network, without seeing something about BBQ. We had the president here last month. We're finding ourselves in a good position."

Being along the flood plane, Stubbs is restricted from developing some parts of the property. This project changes that.

"For us to be able to expand and maybe have more seating, more accommodation not only in the amphitheater but the restaurant as well, it's certainly a positive for us," Garrett explained.

With the future still to be determined, venue owners like Moody say they're cautiously hopeful.

"We do expect increases in rent, but if we also get increases in traffic and we have a safer place to do business that still has a number of venues down here and a cool mix of food and music, then we're optimistic," Moody said.

Waller Creek redevelopments representatives released this statement:

"A vibrant 24/7 community around Waller Creek, all the way from the University of Texas to Lady Bird Lake, will bring safety, culture, family activities and a great atmosphere for business to the area. Our efforts to build engaging public space for the entire community to enjoy and restore the environment and habitat of the creek stem from a desire to see the values of Austin reflected along Waller Creek. This includes small locally owned businesses and positive economic benefits from any future redevelopment,"  wrote Stephanie Lee McDonald, executive director of the Waller Creek Conservancy in a statement.