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Planning Commission to Discuss Rainey Street Development

In the past few years, once quaint and quiet Rainey Street has become a haven for the hip, with businesses ubiquitously flipping the neighborhood's historic bungalows into bars.

Tonight, the City of Austin Planning Commission will discuss two possible changes along Rainey Street: one that would encourage the relocation of historic homes, and another measure that would require new bars to seek permits, including public hearings.

The first proposal would allow developers to build above current height restrictions in the area, if they relocate historic properties instead of simply demolishing them. Developers would be given points for each relocated property. If they earn 65 points, they can build above current restrictions on height in the district. 

Deputy Historic Preservation Officer Alyson McGee says the potential new code would push for preservation, while understanding the inevitable future development of Rainey. 

"It doesn't prevent demolition," McGee said. "But it's to encourage developers to relocate rather than demolish." 

The amendment would apply only to the smaller area that is a historic district, between River Street and Driskill Street. Currently, there are 23 properties that would eligible for the program. If the amendment is approved, the properties would most likely be moved to East Austin in about a year, McGee says. 

Credit City of Austin
City of Austin
The Rainey Street Waterfront District

The second proposal would require any future bar to submit a city application to the city for a zoning permit. Bars within the surrounding area of Rainey Street (outlined to the right, in purple) would need to apply for a permit, which would be reviewed by the Planning Commission and through a public hearing. 

Currently, the area is considered part of the Central Business District and bars are free of the permit requirement.

Greg Dutton with the Planning and Development Review Department says the proposal could be a deterrent, but a permit isn't a deal-breaker; it simply gives the public a chance to weigh-in on the development of the area. 

"I think there are concerns that the whole area is becoming a bar area," Dutton said. "Compounding that are issues like the lack of sidewalks with lots of people and lots of cars." 

A public hearing on both proposals will begin at City Hall tonight starting at 6 p.m. 

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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