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Parking requirement and development at odds amid growth

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Parking spaces could soon be optional for developers in downtown Austin.

Right now, businesses over a certain size must guarantee they have ample parking for their customers, but some city leaders feel the hard-fast requirements are outdated.

Business is picking up for Rounders Pizzeria along West Sixth Street more than it has in the past decade. Owner Adam Garber chose that stretch of road because of the classic Austin feel, knowing full well it came with strings attached.

"Once you pass Lamar on Sixth Street, everything changes as far as parking enforcement for build-out," he said.

Rounders is at its limit in terms of size. If Garber were to expand any, he’d also have to add parking to comply with current city code. That could change if city leaders either increase the ratio of retail space to parking or even ditch the requirement completely.

That move could push cars which would normally park at the business into nearby neighborhoods.

"They are receiving the benefits of being near these commercial entities, but they are not willing to give any when it comes to parking," Garber said.

While it would allow smaller businesses like Garber's to expand without having to find room for parking on the property, larger businesses would be still be required by lenders to meet market demands.

“If the developers don't respond to the market appropriately, then their customers won't patronize their business and their lenders won't support their projects with financing,” Charles Heimsath with Capitol Market Research said.

Heimsath says the current city code is antiquated. As downtown continues to grow up instead of out, Heimsath says public transportation options will improve.

"The market can adjust to those situations as they evolve, and you don't have to go back and rewrite the ordinance every time," Heimsath

Austin's Planning Commission will likely make a recommendation on the matter at its meeting Feb. 12. It will then go before City Council, with a final decision expected in March.

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