Austin revisits upzoning for North Austin

Wants increased density and building height in growing areas near the Domain

Austin Wants Upzoning for North Austin Near Domain
Austin mayor Kirk Watson and the Gateway Shopping Center in North Austin (Getty, Google Maps)

As Austin’s “second downtown,” the Domain, explodes with high-rise developments, city officials are exploring ways to allow similar density elsewhere in North Austin.

The Austin City Council is revisiting a zoning change proposal for North Austin after a court ruled that it failed to provide adequate public notice in its first attempt, the Austin Business Journal reported

This renewed effort aims to expand building height and density in the rapidly growing North Burnet/Gateway area, adjacent to the Domain. The objective is to foster large-scale residential developments close to transportation routes and major employers like the J.J. Pickle research campus, Uptown ATX business hub and the Domain, while addressing the city’s housing affordability crisis.

The Austin Planning Commission unanimously approved the zoning amendment on Jan. 9, responding to the Travis County District Court’s December ruling. The legal setback came via a lawsuit filed by community organizers and neighborhood representatives, alleging insufficient notification to nearby property owners.

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The Texas Court of Appeals similarly rejected a proposed zoning amendment in May 2022, highlighting public notification issues. The city has since updated its language on code amendments to avoid running into the same problem.

“This should not be an issue (moving forward) because we have updated our notice requirements,”  Jorge Rousselin, the division manager for the city’s development services department, told the outlet. “We have an understanding of the language that we need to use when moving forward” in the wake of the ruling.

Council members on Jan. 18 will deliberate the zoning change, which would affect 121 acres south and west of the Domain. Businesses in the affected areas include Whole Foods, Dave & Buster’s and a Regal movie theater. 

If enacted, properties under commercial mixed-use zoning would be changed to allow high-density residential buildings, as well as high-rise office towers, entertainment complexes and retail buildings. Developers would be able to build with a floor-to-area ratio of 10:1 and a 350-foot height limit by incorporating some affordable housing units or paying an equivalent fee. 

To qualify for bonus opportunities, developers would need to offer rental units at 60 percent of Austin’s median family income for 40 years, or for-sale units at the same rate for 99 years, the outlet reported. The median family income for a four-person household in Travis County is $70,080, according to Austin’s Housing Department.

—Quinn Donoghue 

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