Thursday, November 08, 2007

Density Bonuses

Probably not one person reading this blog gives a shit about this at all, but the Austin Contrarian has a nice post up today about why the city should possibly forego density bonuses in the future. It's a discussion.

For those unawares, "density bonuses" are what the city requires for developers to build high-rise buildings downtown (there's been a lot of talk about them recently, obviously). Right now, the legal limit for height is set at, I believe, 8 stories. For anything beyond that, the developer must offer density bonuses, like make a certain percentage of their building middle-income, or donate to a community non-profit, or invest in some kind of something that makes Austin unique, like supporting a musical venue or something. Sounds great, right? It's a win-win for everybody. And it keeps building somewhat regulated and not totally out of control. The Austin Contrarian makes some tentative arguments otherwise. Which are compelling, and have mostly to do with taxes and economics, which I know nothing about, though I find his post very interesting. And informative!

Personally, my favorite condos downtown are the two condos that are old buildings that have been modified. Brazos Place and the Brown Building are the first places I would look if I was looking to invest in downtown. I like the boxy architecture, and the fact that they're not too tall. And the Brown Building is really historical and beautiful. I love its windows.


AC said...

Thanks for the plug!

I like the Brown Building too. It's got a cool bar. My law firm was the main tenant there back in the 1960s. According to the History Channel "documentary," "The Men Who Killed JFK" (or something like that), one of the now-deceased named partners of my firm arranged Kennedy's assassination for LBJ; the records were supposedly kept in the vault on the Brown Building's roof.

The History Channel later apologized for running that bit of libel, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

M1EK said...

It's not 8 stories; it's an 8.0 FAR (floor to area ratio). If the building covers the whole footprint of the lot, it can only be 8 stories, but that's rarely the case. And they end up getting variances from FAR very easily in most cases.

zen imbecile said...

The Austin Contrarian identifies the essential element of an urban environment by noting "at its core it's really about the synergistic energy that emerges when a lot of creative people live near one another."

But the people who can afford to live downtown are not necessarily our most dynamic, productive, and innovative citizens. They are our richest ones.

Density bonuses seem like a reasonably good way to encourage the elements that make Austin interesting - the struggling musicians/artists/filmmakers - to stay put.