📱 TikTok's $12M bet on Austin
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- 6 min read

📱 TikTok's $12M bet on Austin

Plus, the biggest stories you missed this week.

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Introduction

☀️ Howdy, Austin.

The bluebonnets in the front yard are starting to grow seed pods, which is as good a reminder as any to get out and soak up the beautiful show Texas is putting on right now. The wildflowers will be gone soon. 😢

But before the weekend begins, we're looking at how Austin is approaching transportation and development. Plus, there's also a sneak peek into TikTok's multimillion-dollar plans for our city and a look back on the big stories from the week that you should know about.


What is transit-oriented development? 

A Metro Rail Red Line train approaches a station full of people ready to board.
Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc / Getty Images

Transit-oriented developments, or TODs, get talked about a lot hand in hand with Project Connect these days, but like most code-related initiatives, they can be a bit complicated to understand if you're not a city-planning nerd.

We’re here today to break it down for you.

First, a definition.

A TOD is essentially a type of zoning designation that calls for the development of a transit- and community-oriented area that has a mix of housing, office, retail and other commercial development, while remaining a walkable neighborhood with easy access to public transit. The city has developed a number of principles that outline the essential elements of a TOD. Read more about them here.

It all sounds like the urban dream. It also sounds a bit like what's happening around East Sixth Street.

A brief history lesson

The city began developing a plan for TODs in 2004 in preparation for the opening of the MetroRail Red Line. The TOD Ordinance was then adopted in 2005. Makes sense that we're starting to focus on the idea again now that plans for Austin's light rail are becoming concrete.

So how does Austin’s TOD Ordinance work? 

The TOD process is divided into two phases. Phase 1 can be thought of as the research phase. Phase 2 is when the rules, regulations and planning get codified. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. 

  • In Phase 1, a location is identified and boundaries are set. Then the research begins. The city identifies the “profile” of the neighborhood: Is it mostly residential? A major commercial hub? A highly urbanized area like a downtown? This will determine how the TOD is developed. During this time, development in the area is also subject to interim rules, which dictate a number of things, including land use, parking and building setbacks. 
  • During Phase 2, two plans are created and adopted — the Station Area Plan and Regulating Plan. The Station Area Plan is the big picture plan for the area, outlining tools and incentives to encourage development in line with the City’s TOD principles and addressing affordability goals. The Regulating Plan turns the ideas in the Station Area Plan into rules. It becomes part of the city’s Land Development Code, while property within the TOD boundary gets rezoned with a TOD base zoning subject to the Regulating Plan’s rules. 

How many TODs does Austin have? 

Only three designated TODs have completed Phase 2 and are now governed by Regulating Plans. They are each located along a Metro Rail Red Line stop at Lamar Boulevard/Justin Lane, MLK Jr. Boulevard, and Plaza Saltillo. At least six other areas have been designated TOD districts, but have yet to move through the Phase 2 process. 

So what are ETODs?

Yep, we don't just have TODs. We now also have ETODs.

In 2021, after Project Connect was approved by voters, the City Council directed city staff to create a policy plan for equitable transit-oriented developments, or ETODs. The plan was adopted in March of 2023 and outlines six goals, including this trio:

  • helping to close the racial health and wealth gap
  • preserving and increasing affordable housing
  • expanding Austin’s diverse cultural heritage — plus its small and legacy businesses as well as those owned by people of color — by ensuring lease spaces are affordable and attainable

The city is now working to implement the ETOD plan by adopting parts of it into the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan. This will also increase Austin’s competitiveness when applying for federal grants to help pay for Project Connect. 

— Cat DeLaura, Reporter


Temperature: 78 degrees | Sun: Playing Peak-a-Boo | What to Expect: Breezy south winds

It will be picture-perfect as we wrap up the workweek. Expect lots of sunshine, breezy south winds, and low humidity.

Mary’s Weekend Tip: If you're looking for Easter activities for the little ones, The Fareground is hosting an Easter Egg-stravaganza Saturday, but if you're more of an adult egg hunter, you might want to check out the Sign Bar on Sunday.


TikTok's doling out $12 million to revamp its Austin office

TikTok is under threat of being swiped to oblivion nationwide. Yet it is still betting on growing in Austin.

The popular social media platform intends to launch an $11.9 million renovation next month of three floors of its offices at the 300 Colorado office tower downtown, two blocks from City Hall, according to plans that were submitted to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation on March 14.

Source: Google Street View

The company – which the U.S. House of Representatives voted to ban on March 13 unless its Chinese owner sells it – had submitted plans in September for a $17 million renovation of three other floors it occupies in the building. President Joe Biden has said he would sign the House bill, which is now under consideration by the U.S. Senate.

TikTok seems to have changed its mind about Austin: Last year, the company listed its six floors at 300 Colorado on the sublease market, according to the Austin Business Journal. The company now has 63 jobs in Austin listed on its website

— Richard Webner, Contributing Reporter


4 stories you shouldn't miss this week

  • Is Boomtown Austin over? Austin’s net migration decreased by 2,411 people last year. That marks the first time Austin has seen more people leaving than arriving in over 20 years. KUT’s got a look at why that might be and what it might all mean. 
  • 9 recommendations for changing Austin’s charter. The Charter Revision Commission officially submitted its review of the city’s charter with nine amendment recommendations. Many of the recommendations have to do with when and how citizen-initiated petitions should be carried out. The most controversial proposal would set a signature threshold for the approval of citizen initiative and referendum petitions at 3.5% of qualified Austin voters. Those against the move raised a number of concerns, including that as Austin’s population increases, citizen-driven ballot initiatives would become less accessible to those with fewer resources and less funding. Read all of the recommendations here or catch up quickly with Austin Monitor’s summary here.  
  • We (almost) have a new city manager. Austin is ready to hire T.C. Broadnax, and there's a vote to make it official set for next week’s City Council meeting. He held the same role in Dallas, but he stepped down in February. He had a rocky relationship with the city's mayor and three council members, who wanted him to go in 2022, according to KERA News.
  • Austin’s good news corner. Before you head out for the weekend, check out this piece from Statesman metro columnist Bridget Grumet about how volunteers at First United Methodist Church of Austin are creating an all-female safe space for women experiencing homelessness to exhale, relax and regroup.  

Were so glad you found us. Find our bios and contact info here, or reach out at hello@austindaily.com. Behind todays send: Katie Canales, Cat DeLaura, Mary Wasson and Richard Webner.