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Latest Rainey tower gets Planning Commission support

(City of Austin)

By Jonathan Lee

The Planning Commission has recommended increased density for 80 Rainey, a 550-foot-tall, 644-unit residential tower by developer Lincoln Ventures at 80 Rainey St.

The commission voted 11-0-1 on Feb. 22 to recommend increasing the floor area ratio (a measure of density) on the site from 15:1 to 20:1 with Commissioner Solveij Rosa Praxis abstaining. The 49-story project now heads to City Council for final approval.

Other commissions in recent months have also recommended the tower move forward. The Design Commission certified the project’s compliance with Urban Design Guidelines in December, and in January the Historic Landmark Commission approved moving one of the bungalows on-site just to the south, behind Reina, another bungalow bar.

In addition to the bungalow bars, the tower will add to Rainey’s nightlife scene with an 11th-floor rooftop bar, a basement speakeasy, a coffee and cocktail lounge, and multiple restaurant spaces. Construction is planned to start this summer and end in 2025. Approximately 20 units will be affordable on-site, as required by the Downtown Density Bonus Program.

The Planning Commission also approved the removal of one heritage tree; three out of four heritage trees on-site will be preserved.

Though the project sailed through multiple city commissions, some neighbors objected to adding more density in the area. A resident of the Shore Condominiums and the property’s general manager both wrote to oppose the FAR increase, arguing that 80 Rainey’s garage placement would bring more congestion to an alley needed for vehicle access.

“This alley is barely passable as it is with many garbage dumpsters and trucks unloading materials,” Nolan Kagetsu, who lives in the Shore, said. “The entire Rainey Street area … is becoming increasingly dense with no apparent upgrades to the streets and sidewalks to accommodate the increase in both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.”

One neighbor who wrote in support of the tower was skeptical of the alley argument. “Such objections are a thinly veiled excuse to stop any future development from occurring in the neighborhood,” Andrew Gray said. “If the developers of 80 Rainey Street chose a different layout for the entrance of their parking garage, objections to this development would undoubtedly continue.”

Some Rainey residents, as well as Council Member Kathie Tovo, have opposed increased density for new towers in the past due to concerns about infrastructure. Tovo, who represents the neighborhood, voted against FAR increases for three Rainey towers last year.

Despite objections from some residents, continued change in Rainey looks inevitable. In the coming years, the area will be further transformed as several more skyscrapers – including the tallest tower in Texas – are planned in the neighborhood.

The Austin Monitor is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization with a mission to strengthen our shared information space and democracy.


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