At their last meeting, Austin City Council Members passed a resolution that for the most part will eliminate Central Urban Redevelopment Combining District (CURE) zoning as an option for downtown redevelopment. The resolution passed by a margin of 6-1 (Mayor Lee Leffingwell voted in opposition) eliminates CURE zoning as an option to achieve additional height or density downtown.
CURE is “a zoning district for the downtown area and several commercial corridors east of IH-35. The purpose of this … zoning district is to provide flexibility and incentives for development within the designated boundaries, including changes to site development standards and waivers from development fees with one application.” Developers could use CURE zoning to negotiate with the City to earn additional height and density for projects in exchange for certain community benefits.
After CURE was adopted, the City created a competing tool – the interim Downtown Density Bonus Program. This competing tool also allowed developers to earn height and density bonuses in exchange for community benefits. Despite that new tool being available, developers still opted for CURE. The perception with the density bonus program was that the provisions surrounding affordable housing requirements were too onerous, and CURE was a more attractive tool.
However, this action by Council will basically force developers to opt for the Downtown Density Bonus Program and not CURE. This is good news for affordable housing advocates who have long wanted more of that housing stock in all parts of town, including the urban core. It may be bad news for new urbanists who are clamoring for density and height downtown as the Mayor suggested in his remarks about why he opposed the resolution.
Hopefully, there will be a happy medium that provides for necessary height and density downtown while also addressing the need for reasonably priced housing options throughout the City.