A giant new public park is destined for Whisper Valley, the $2 billion energy-saving housing subdivision in northeastern Travis County whose developers have said is the first and largest “energy neutral” development of its kind locally and nationally.
Plans are underway at Whisper Valley for the massive park, which will be located just off the Texas 130 tollway along FM 973 and extending east of Taylor Lane. At 600 acres, the park would be nearly twice the size of Austin's iconic 351-acre Zilker Park just south of downtown.
Whisper Valley's developer says its park will become the centerpiece of a new master trail plan that ultimately will connect the city of Austin’s 4,000-acre Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park and Lake Walter E. Long, Travis County's 14-mile trail system and the East Metropolitan Park through Whisper Valley, providing about 20 miles of trails in all.
The Whisper Valley subdivision is at FM 973 and Braker Lane, just east of Texas 130 and about 3 miles south of Manor. Homes in Whisper Valley are being powered solely by geothermal and solar energy, according to its developer, Boston-based Taurus Investment Holdings LLC, a global private equity real estate firm.
Whisper Valley: The Austin community of the future, here today
“We’re thrilled to announce this park, which makes Whisper Valley one of the most health-oriented communities in Austin and provides a positive way to reconnect residents with nature,” Douglas Gilliland, managing director at Taurus Investment Holdings, said in a statement.
Referred to as the “Zilker Park of East Austin,” more than $8 million will be invested in trails and programmed areas for Whisper Valley Park. Plans call for picnic areas, manicured open space, playgrounds, shade structures, restrooms, decomposed granite trails, community gardens, an events amphitheater, benches, landscaping and signage.
The final design for the park's first phase is due to be completed in 2025, with construction to begin in 2026. The park is expected to be built in seven phases over six years.
The park's first phase will include the design and construction of miles of 12-foot-wide pedestrian trails that extend from the community retail center at FM 973 and meander along Gilleland Creek to Taylor Lane. Trailheads will allow residents to walk and ride bikes from within the neighborhood to the park.
The park, which encompasses an area designated as a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, also will have two programmed areas for community activities. The first area will be adjacent to the community retail center at Braker Lane and FM 973; the second will be near the final two phases, in the heart of the Whisper Valley community.
Residents currently have access to the initial trails through the rolling terrain of Whisper Valley.
Situated on over 2,000 acres, more than 400 homes already are on the ground in Whisper Valley, with plans for 7,500 homes once it is completed in coming years. There's not a projected completion date, but Taurus officials say it could be at least 15 years, depending on market demand and how quickly the company can obtain approvals from the city of Austin.
Currently, 1,000 lots are in the planning stages or under development, the company said. Homes in Whisper Valley range from the mid-$300,000s into the $600,000s.
Though it’s not the first project to feature sustainable, energy-smart homes, Taurus officials have told the Statesman that Whisper Valley is the largest project of its kind — locally and nationally — to have “energy neutral” homes that are capable of producing as much energy as they consume on a net basis every year.
The homes are being equipped with geothermal pumps for heating and cooling; roof-mounted solar panels; energy-efficient appliances; and other green-building technologies, Taurus officials have said.
That means they could achieve the “net-zero,” or carbon neutral, standard Austin has set as a goal for all new homes built within the city limits from 2016 forward. Austin has set a 2050 target to reduce carbon emissions to zero for all buildings and houses.
In a 2015 interview, Gilliland told the Statesman, “This is a significant undertaking, and Austin, with its progressive carbon-emissions targets, is the perfect place to do this."
Construction on the first homes at Whisper Valley kicked off in 2017. The project will have single-family and multifamily residences; retail and neighborhood services; restaurants; and commercial space.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Giant park coming to Whisper Valley in Travis County Austin Texas