I may have written about West Campus a time or two before. But this time I come not to praise West Campus, but to bury it — in new developments! On Thursday, October 3, Austin’s City Council will consider the biggest changes to the rules that govern a good chunk of West Campus (known as UNO or the University Neighborhood Overlay) since they were initially passed in 2004. The proposed changes would:
- End requirements for new buildings to build parking garages.
- Allow existing parking garages to be converted to other uses, such as apartments, art galleries, or storage units.
- Raise the density bonus from 15′ to 25′, allowing more housing as well as more qualified Affordable Housing.
- Extend the density bonus program to Inner West Campus, where it will allow height limits to move from 175′ to 300′ for buildings that include enough qualified Affordable Housing.
- Extend the areas of West Campus included in Inner West Campus, with its 175’/300′ height limits.
- Allow ground-floor retail in more parts of West Campus.
Essentially, these changes would take the things that have worked about West Campus and crank them up even further. It finds barriers to West Campus’ continued growth and busts right through them. West Campus Two Point Ohhhhh Yeahhhhh.
And as this is Bizarro Austin, this commonsense program to allow more affordable housing, more people to live in walking distance from where they go every day, has been met with overwhelming approval, not pitched political battles. Planning Commission approved it 11-1, and even the lone dissenter supported the vast majority of the changes. The West Campus Neighborhood Association is an enthusiastic supporter. And city staff has recommended most of the changes to City Council.
The two changes that staff has wavered on are the expansion of the 175’/300′ zone along a couple blocks of Rio Grande (pictured below) and the expansion of the density bonus area to more properties that border on the single-family homes that make up the balance of West Campus outside the UNO overlay.
So this week, I’m sending my letter of support behind those crazy kids living in West Campus supporting Planning Commission’s version of UNO 2 Point Ohhhhh Yeahhhhh, wishing them all the best in their hopes and dreams of seeing even more students get the opportunity to live in this incredible neighborhood right next to campus, and improve the neighborhood with more access to retail and better sidewalks. I encourage y’all to do the same!
Bonus content: friend-of-the-blog and West Campus resident Kevin Quist has produced an amazing short documentary on West Campus. Check it out here: