City believes Water Garden can finally be restored

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Downtown visitors may soon be able to beat the heat in a familiar place.

The city has a plan to restore the Water Garden to operational status.

The popular downtown attraction has been dry since Hurricane Harvey.

“It’s such a lovely feature that could really beautify our city, said Chrisi Carter.

Carter often visits the Water Garden, walking there on her lunch break several times a month.

“On other occasions, I’d bring my son down here quite a bit when it’s nice and green,” Carter said.

The view is still nice, but Carter and others say it could be so much better. The lack of water at the Water Garden is disappointing for Carter and a source of frustration for the city’s Director of Engineering.

“It’s been more of a continual frustration,” said Jeff Edmonds.

Edmonds has been here before. In 2019, he and his department had a design to restore the fountains ready to go, but it came with an $8 million price tag.

“Those estimates that we had on that design exceeded their budget tolerance,” Edmonds said.

Built-in 1987, the Water Garden suffered from a fatal design flaw.

The control room for the lights, fountains, and pumps sits under the structure and below sea level. Heavy rains would flood the control room, often leaving the garden inoperable.

The proposed restoration project moves that infrastructure above ground and is budgeted for $4.5 million in the city’s Capital Improvements Plan. Of that, $375,000 would go to the design contract the city council considers next week.

“It’s not going to look quite as good as it would have looked, we might have some pre-fab buildings,” Edmonds said. “We’re going to put something out that’s going to be acceptable.”

According to Edmonds, the updated project also removes redundancies that were built into the $8 million design.

Carter says she’s not sure if a $4.5 million price tag is too steep. What she does know is that a working water garden is a good thing.

“Especially having been able to experience it when it was working,” Carter said. It was really lovely and refreshing. There’s a lot going on and lots of reasons for people to come here and this feature could be so nice.

There is also a question of whether the Water Garden has a long-term future. It sits in an area currently being looked at as part of a feasibility study for a new convention center hotel. Officials, however, believe there is plenty of room for both the Water Garden as well as a new hotel.

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Karen J. Simmons

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