A resolution headed to Austin City Council next week could update the North Burnet / Gateway Regulating Plan to bring more dense and transit-oriented growth to the area around the Domain and Q2 Stadium in North Austin. Set for discussion at Council’s upcoming meeting on June 16, the draft resolution seeks to expand the boundaries of the plan and potentially increase the density of buildings constructed inside it using its development bonus program to incentivize affordable housing and other community benefits.
Since its adoption in 2009, the NBG plan has allowed projects in the region to build much higher than usually allowed under the area’s typical zoning, with several new towers in this district rising 20 floors or more — last month, Council already voted to allow buildings inside the plan’s Commercial Mixed-Use subdistrict around the intersection of Burnet Road and West Braker Lane to rise an additional 112 feet under the area’s development bonus program, increasing the maximum height possible around this part of the district from 308 to 420 feet.
With two additional rail stations headed to the Capital Metro Red Line at McKalla near Q2 Stadium and the blockbuster 66-acre Uptown ATX development now under construction directly east of the Domain, the possibilities for dense transit-oriented housing here are extremely promising — and Council’s recent focus on relaxing the current limits of development in the area shows there’s even more potential for growth in the region beyond the plan area’s current boundaries.
The language of the resolution is a little vague, but instructs the City Manager to review the NBG plan for possible updates that will bring it closer to the mission of Council to provide increased housing and employment opportunities in this transit-rich area. The resolution also includes 11 potential modifications, listed below:
The Council directs the City Manager to review the NBG Plan for potential updates that will allow the NBG Plan to more closely align with Council’s priorities on housing, employment, and transit. The review process should include community engagement with nearby residents and business stakeholders, as well as with governmental entities and organizations including, but not limited to Capital Metro, Austin Transit Partnership, Austin FC, Austin Economic Development Corporation, and University of Texas.
In addition to reviewing potential updates described above, the City Manager’s review should include the following potential modifications to the NBG Plan that reflect current community needs and values:
1. Expand Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and TOD-Gateway subdistricts to parcels within one-half mile of the McKalla and UptownATX Red Line stations, parcels west of Mopac, and others as appropriate; and
2. Evaluate all subdistricts for opportunities to increase the maximum height and FAR with a development bonus; and
3. Review opportunities to apply appropriate subdistricts to new areas, including parcels west of Mopac; and
4. Amend sign regulations in the NBG Plan to align with City Code Chapter 25-10 (Sign Regulations), including common area signage, directional signage, free standing and wall signage on buildings, wayfinding signage, park signage, and Capital Metro signage, and any other signage regulations; and
5. Expand the current boundary of the NBG Plan area to encompass industrial and/or commercial areas adjacent to the NBG Plan area, while avoiding existing, developed single family neighborhoods; and
6. Adjust the Land Use Standards for General Retail Sales (Figure 2-1) to remove square footage limitations in cases where a single project or property owner may provide retail space to multiple small businesses that will enhance the pedestrian experience; and
7. Eliminate the current requirement for a 30-foot step-back for building facades at the 6th story and above, which limits potential housing developments, retails choices, or office development; and
8. Consider alternatives to prevent the “canyon effect” caused by commercial structures; and
9. Clarify the application of the 120-foot height limit in the TOD and Corridor Mixed Use (CMU) subdistricts when adjacent to and across the street from NR subdistrict, and consider capping the limit under a 100-foot distance; and
10. Apply relaxed compatibility and parking requirements, aligned with applicable Council directives and actions associated with citywide compatibility and parking requirement changes; and
11. Evaluate the development bonus provisions and fees for the NBG Plan for potential updates.
That’s a lot to consider, but the really interesting modifications listed here include the possible inclusion of “parcels west of Mopac” in the plan area, though it’s not clear precisely where. There’s plenty of low-rise shopping center properties that could be redeveloped west of Mopac around Braker Lane, with no adjacent single-family homes to impose compatibility standards on new buildings — as seen in the map below, the Gateway shopping center near Mopac is already partially designated as a Commercial Mixed-Use area in the current plan:
Item #5, “Expand the current boundary of the NBG Plan area to encompass industrial and/or commercial areas adjacent to the NBG Plan area,” is also promising — this could likely include the industrial parks around Metric Boulevard and Kramer Lane, which would enable larger development anchored by the nearby Q2 Stadium.
According to the draft resolution, the City Manager is tasked with presenting recommendations for the plan’s modifications to Council later this summer by September 1, and it’s probably then that we’ll actually get our hands on a map of where the bounds and limits of the regulating plan will be modified — but until then, it’s incredibly promising to see this emerging district take off the gloves. While it might be a little corny to call this area Austin’s “second downtown,” we’ll take this kind of growth over parking lots and strip malls any day.
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