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How tall could buildings get in Austin? A new density program may have no limit

The new Land Development Code in Austin would allow developers to build buildings with no floor-area ratio and unlimited height.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin's skyline could grow even taller.

Potential changes to the Land Development Code would not require city council approval for the height of skyscrapers.

As the saying goes, the only thing constant is change.

"Since I got here, it's amazing how much I've seen it change already," said Austinite Jason Hoffman.

In Austin, it seems like the only way to keep changing is going up.

"It's grown more in the past five years than I thought it would take 10 to get here, if that makes any sense," said Lupe Benavides.

"That's why they're going up, and they're going up even higher," said Bill McDonald.

RELATED: Push-back against city leaders as Austin's Land Development Code one step closer to law

Building is getting higher, especially with proposed changes to the Land Development Code.

"Someone would not have to go to council if they want to go 80 stories, 90 stories," asked Melissa Henao-Robledo, a downtown commissioner, at a meeting last week.

"Yes, that is correct, as long as they comply with all of the requirements of the Downtown Density Bonus Program," replied one person at the meeting.

"It's crazy how it is now, for it to get built up even more than it is now. It's almost unnecessary to go up that many stories," said Benavides.

Those new changes remove not only the height limit, but also the floor-area ratio for developers who meet certain requirements that the City has laid out as part of its Downtown Density Bonus Program. 

Some think it's too much.

"How are people going to get around? Obviously they're going to have to be on foot. They're going to have to be on a bike. They're going to have to be doing something," said Benavides.

RELATED: Land development code proposals would increase developer fees, allow taller buildings in Downtown Austin

Others feel we're on the right path.

"Looking at the new code, I actually really don't think it's enough," said Hoffman, who spends half his week in New York City for work. "You know, the neighborhood I spend a lot of time in, Queens wouldn't exist if they hadn't increased the density ... and that was 100 years ago, so this isn't a new problem, but cities change."

So as the city continues to grow up, the only thing staying the same is the change.


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