Planning Commission members signed off on several project plans across Austin Jan. 10, including a new cocktail lounge and art yard off South Congress Avenue and a 34-unit apartment complex in Windsor Park.

Commissioners also pushed off consideration of a pair of broader city planning updates for several weeks. Those items have been could each alter future development across the eastern side of downtown and around The Domain in Northwest Austin.

South Congress art yard

Without opposition, commissioners moved plans for a "container bar" at South Congress and East Stassney Lane on for City Council consideration.

The rezoning case for 5604 South Congress Ave. would allow for a coffee and cocktail lounge alongside a music and arts space in an outdoor garden setting. Initial plans for the 12,624-square-foot site include a pavilion area and stage, lawn, and food vending.

While no community members spoke for or against the case during the commission meeting, representatives with the South Congress Combined Neighborhood Plan Contact Team said in a letter that they support the project after reaching an agreement with the property owner over noise and parking concerns.

The plan is scheduled for council review in February.

Windsor Park multifamily

Consideration of a multifamily development in Windsor Park was more contested, with commissioners working through a debate over the place of added housing density in existing neighborhoods over several votes.

The rezoning proposal from Thrower Design, LLC asked commissioners to upzone a single-family property at 6305 Berkman Drive for multifamily use. That would allow up to 34 units on the site in the growing neighborhood. Agent Ron Thrower said it is not yet decided whether the project would feature for-sale or rental spaces.

Thrower and agent Victoria Haase also said that, while significant on paper, the zoning change would not permit residential construction that is out of character in the area. The Berkman Drive property is already restricted by compatibility standards—development rules that cap characteristics such as building height near existing homes—meaning the project would be limited to less than 35 units and 45 feet of height regardless of the zoning change.

City planning staff recommended voting down the request, citing the surrounding single-family homes as a baseline for local zoning.

No residents spoke against the plan Jan. 10. However, commissioners were split on whether to side with the Thrower team's ask for limited density given the constraints of the property or maintain the neighborhood's established zoning levels.

Speaking in favor of the change, Commissioner Greg Anderson highlighted the site's location on a Capital Metro bus route and near amenities including a school and new 400-unit mixed-use development as reasons to support bringing more residents to Windsor Park. He also said a lower zoning category would likely bring a project with fewer, and more expensive, housing units.

"The actual size of the building isn't changing that much between these two zoning categories, but in one of these you actually incentivize much larger units. ... This really seems like a slam-dunk case," Anderson said.

On the other side, multiple commissioners opposed the jump in land use entitlements proposed by Thrower. Several said that while more housing at the location could be welcome, a greatly increased zoning allowance was not needed and could result in future speculation rather than short-term development.

"[Multifamily residence high density zoning] doesn’t belong here. We can argue all day about titles and definitions and that sort of thing ... But as of right now, MF-5 does not belong in this location," Commissioner Grayson Cox said.

After considering several commissioners' attempts to reach a middle ground between city staff and Thrower's proposals, they eventually voted in favor of a multifamily designation with some limits on future development. The zoning case is also set to make City Council's agenda in the coming weeks.