Waller Creek fix in­cludes pon­toons

Float­ing bridges, one cross­ing lake, fac­tor into con­cep­tual de­sign. $420,000 grant will help trans­form Mercer Street with new signs, beau­ti­fi­ca­tion projects.

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - Wear B By Mar­ques G. Harper mharper@states­man.com Down­town B states­man.com/ sea­son­for­car­ing. Page A10.

As

long as we’re writ­ing about things un­likely to hap­pen ...

Last week in this space, I told you about a pro­posal from a lo­cal de­sign firm to cre­ate an Austin mass tran­sit sys­tem of amuse­ment park-style gon­do­las sus­pended on wires. The per­son who sug­gested this, Michael McDaniel with Frog De­sign, ad­mit­ted when I talked to him about it that his pro­posal was in part a provo­ca­tion, as well as some­thing of a gibe at the city-sanc­tioned ur­ban rail plan.

But that col­umn caused a friend to ask me about the plan to build a pon­toon bridge across Lady Bird Lake. The plan to build ... what? Turns out pon­toons fea­ture promi­nently in the con­cep­tual Waller Creek beau­ti­fi­ca­tion plan submitted by the win­ning team in the re­cent de­sign com­pe­ti­tion for what to do with 1 1/2 miles of that bedrag­gled down­town stream. The non­profit Waller Creek Con­ser­vancy, in com­bi­na­tion with the city, con­ducted that con­test, and the win­ning team — led by New York-based ar­chi­tec­ture firms Michael Van Valken­burgh As­so­ci­ates and Thomas Phifer & Part­ners — will now re­fine those ideas into a full-fledged de­sign and phas­ing plan.

This was all sparked by the on­go­ing con­struc­tion of a

One of Drip­ping Springs’ old­est streets is about to get a makeover that res­i­dents hope will charm vis­i­tors into strolling, shop­ping and din­ing.

Mercer Street, in the city’s down­town, would be turned into a thriv­ing town cen­ter for the city’s 1,788 res­i­dents, thanks to a $420,000 Cap­i­tal Area Met­ro­pol­i­tan Plan­ning Or­ga­ni­za­tion grant.

Mercer, which runs par­al­lel to U.S. 290, was the lo­ca­tion of some of the city’s first busi­nesses, and many of those store­fronts have re­mained un­changed since they were built, mostly dur­ing the 1870s through 1940s. Mercer was an­chored by a post of­fice, but those ser­vices moved to U.S. 290 in 2009.

“It sucked the life out of Mercer Street,” said Michelle Fis­cher, Drip­ping Springs’ city ad­min­is­tra­tor.

Re­cently, Mercer has been trans­formed with the ad­di­tion of new busi­nesses, in­clud­ing Dud­ley’s Wine Bar & Tap Room and the Bar­ber Shop, a bar spe­cial­iz­ing in lo­cal craft beer.

“We’ve been try­ing to get some­thing like this for a long time,” said Ted Lehr, chair­man of the city’s His­toric Preser­va­tion Com­mis­sion. “This is the first big step. We have th­ese grants, and we want to use the money in a cost-ef­fi­cient way.” Read up­dates from the other fam­i­lies and see the orig­i­nal sto­ries and pho­tos at For more in­for­ma­tion on Sea­son for Car­ing, call 445-3590 or email com­mu­nity@states­man. com. To make a do­na­tion, go on­line or see the do­na­tion form on

City of­fi­cials want to add wide side­walks, cross­walks, bi­cy­cle racks and an­tique-look­ing posts that would evoke de­sign of decades past. Some build­ings have not changed since they were built in the 1870s.

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