Heralded as a "gem" of downtown, the redeveloped
Much of the praise centers on the visible elements: landscaping, park beautification, and the commercial and residential buildings the project has spawned.
Below the surface of the creek lies the oft-overlooked, vitally important flood control system designed and built in the wake of the 1976 flood.
How it works
The innovative system relies on a series of four underground conduits running below the artificial creek. When water collects in
Each 20-by-20-foot conduit -- large enough to drive a bus through -- can hold up to 1.4 million cubic feet of water, according to
As she noted, however, stormwater doesn't sit still. The flood control system also uses a series of pumps that regulate how much water enters the conduits. Flap valves in the conduit walls push standing water through the 1.3-mile pipe system and out to the
The system as a whole effectively prevents a 100-year storm event -- a rainfall that has a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year -- from flooding as it did in 1976, when 7 inches of rainfall drenched downtown in less than 16 hours.
The project also removed about 130 acres in downtown from a 100-year floodplain, relieving property owners in that area from mandatory flood insurance required by the
An innovative solution
The 1976 flood devastated much of downtown
To state Sen.
The best option from a functional standpoint was akin to a giant sewer system running through the heart of downtown. Although the system effectively moved flood water, it was unattractive.
"It was very ugly," Young recalled Tuesday in a phone interview. "It did nothing for downtown."
Young, working with various architects and design firms, instead proposed covering the underground conduit system with a shallow manmade creek channel. The body of water comes from the natural creek, but is controlled to contain a constant amount of water.
The upper artificial creek was inspired by the River Walk in
Many communities locally and nationwide have looked to
Conceptual plans emerged by the late 1970s, but construction didn't begin until 1985. Part of the delay stemmed, in part, from raising the money necessary to pay for the
Young described financing as "the most daunting" part of the project, noting that initial cost estimates were four times the city's operating budget. Working with the
Young chalked up the success of his legislative request, in part, to the way he pitched the project. Neither flood control nor park beautification was enough to convince state legislators at the time, he said.
Instead, he sold the project on economic development.
Many of the direct and intangible economic benefits of the project are still to come.
Construction of the flood control system ended in 1993. Although a master plan for the linear park to rest atop the flood control was adopted in 1991, park development didn't begin until 2005.
Young lost his 1989 bid for reelection. According to Young, the project also lost momentum under new leadership. He said if he had won reelection, the entire project would have finished by 1995.
He said he was thankful subsequent administrations eventually resumed his efforts. The
Despite the delays, Young called the end result "beautiful."
Several significant projects have been completed. Griffin noted that the first phase of park improvements coincided with about
Griffin named renovations to the
The various projects in the pipeline including a proposed downtown hotel and conference center that, once finished, would add
The circle of positive impacts surrounding the creek will continue to widen with time, project by project, block by block, he said.
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