Three towers planned for downtown Austin are moving forward after the Austin City Council approved density bonuses for the projects at its April 8 meeting. Requests by developers of 9092 Rainey, 84 East, and the River Street Residences to increase currently allowed floor-to-area ratios in exchange for community benefits were approved by a vote of 9-2, with councilmembers Kathie Tovo and Ann Kitchen opposing.
The council vote will allow the residential buildings, which have three separate developers, to increase the 15:1 FAR that would be allowed for their projects under current zoning to up to 32:1 (for the planned building currently called 9092 Rainey). Together, the three buildings will pay fees-in-lieu for affordable housing of almost $3.3 million and create around 1,140 new condominiums. Two of the projects—84 East and 9092 Rainey—would create some affordable housing space on their sites as well.
The developments are in the Rainey neighborhood, a part of the central business district that includes the Rainey Street Historic District and is part of City Council District 9, represented by Tovo. Both she and Kitchen, who represents South Austin's District 5, argued that the area's infrastructure and mobility issues need to be addressed and that community benefits required under the Downtown and Rainey Street Density Bonus programs need to be revisited. After the vote, Councilmember Natasha Harper-Madison noted that the city's 2011 Downtown Austin plan "makes no bones" about Rainey's suitability for density and that it "calls for the highest level of density in that section of downtown." She also noted that it's "one of the few areas of the city where people can live comfortably without having to own a car."
Earlier in the meeting, the council approved on consent Tovo's proposal to remove a section of the current downtown density ordinance and direct the city manager to present proposed revisions to both Rainey and downtown density ordinances to the council on April 22. It also calls for removing from different sections in the development code and putting them all in the city fee schedule.