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New light rail will force relocation of Austin Rowing Club

Plans show the Blue Line, connecting downtown and Austin’s airport, will cut through the current Waller Creek Boathouse property.

AUSTIN, Texas — As Austin’s new light rail system takes shape, some businesses are being forced to make plans for relocation.

The Waller Creek Boathouse, located at the end of Trinity Street on the north side of Lady Bird Lake, will have to be torn down to make way for the Blue Line. The latest plans call for relocating it to the east side of Interstate 35 and south of Lady Bird Lake to the Austin Youth Hostel.

That’s because Project Connect plans show the Blue Line light rail will cross Lady Bird Lake on a bridge before entering a tunnel near the current boathouse property and continuing into downtown.

The Austin Rowing Club, a nonprofit that operates out of the boathouse, will be forced to move. It has more than four decades of history in the Austin area.

“It’s a very vibrant spot here right in the center of Downtown Austin,” said Kevin Reinis, executive director of the Austin Rowing Club. “We also work with 20 nonprofits with various programming for people with disabilities, veterans, under-served youth, in addition to a youth program, adult programs. So we have a very diverse set of communities that participate with us here at the boathouse.”

As part of the move to East Austin, Reinis said it’s an opportunity to expand programming and possibilities.

“This will really help step up our engagement with a broader section of the Austin community,” Reinis said. “Historically, east of 35, there's been a lack of programming services to that community. Well, we can really transform that with this new location and bring amenities, programming, partners to east of 35.”

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department will host a community meeting Monday in coordination with the Austin Transit Partnership to discuss what the next generation of the boathouse could look like.

Reinis said now that a future location is figured out, they’re focused on getting feedback on some of the following questions:

  • What does the community want to see in the new facility?
  • What types of amenities and programming are important to the community in the new facility?

The boathouse is currently on parkland, which means the Austin Transit Partnership will have to pay a fair market value for the property and improvements.

A spokesperson for the Austin Transit Partnership sent KVUE the following prepared statement:

“Austin Transit Partnership is in close partnership with the City of Austin and the Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) to find a suitable, alternative site for the rowing facilities currently located at the Waller Creek Boathouse. As part of the process of developing the Blue Line, it is expected that ATP will need to acquire the parkland occupied by the boathouse, through a process informed by local, state and federal regulations and the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). This process will ensure the City of Austin will receive fair-market value for the property and improvements. Once a new site for rowing facilities is identified, and as the Blue Line design progresses, ATP will support PARD in delivering those facilities to make the relocation process as smooth as possible."

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