Rise Aspen Heights’ project was granted entitlements for an extra eight stories.

AUSTIN, TX—The tower at 805 Nueces St. made headlines for being the first project to navigate the downtown density bonus program. The 22-story project is eight stories and 86,000 square feet larger than what it otherwise would have been, based on underlying zoning.

That’s because the developer agreed to pay $868,400 or $10 for each additional square foot, to the affordable housing trust fund, along with other costly building upgrades that make the project compliant with a two-star rating from Austin Energy. It was granted the entitlements it needed to add those extra eight stories in December 2014, and will make the payment to the affordable housing trust fund this fall in advance of receiving its certificate of occupancy.

The project, appropriately named Rise–8th and Nueces, just topped out. Developer Aspen Heights is moving forward on this endeavor on its home turf and will start marketing for future residents in May. Construction is anticipated to wrap up by year’s end.

“It’s a large payment, no doubt. We concluded, however, that the increased density would make it worth it,” said Greg Henry, CEO of Aspen Heights. “Far from being just a benefit to developers, we believe this is an important tool needed to supply Austin with the kind of density it needs to increase the city’s housing options, as well as giving the city funding to provide affordable housing.”

Rise–8th & Nueces will feature 198 apartment units as well as live-work spaces on the ground floor. Other project features include a rooftop infinity-edge pool, deck, lounge, a rooftop dog park and a top-floor fitness center overlooking the state capitol building.

Henry tells GlobeSt.com: “Aspen Heights is always on the look-out for new ways to push the envelope forward in our industry. Many developers get nervous about being the first to go through a new city program, but Austin’s downtown density program was one we felt could benefit our project and our hometown. It was an honor to be the first and we’re thrilled to see the efforts coming to fruition. It’s also important to note the particulars of what makes this location special: it’s in a part of downtown with a number of historic homes and protected views of the state capitol. While that presented certain design challenges, it also presents a fantastic living experience for future residents.”

Aspen Heights worked with local firm Greenstar Development to source the land, fund the project and assist with the development. The project’s architect, Rhode:Partners, worked closely with city staff to also ensure the project meets guidelines established by the urban design commission. That’s the same architect behind Aspen Heights’ most high-profile project to date, The Independent, a cantilever-designed condo project that broke ground earlier this year and will soon become the tallest structure in downtown Austin.

“This being the first project to go through the downtown density bonus program, there was a certain amount of ‘feeling our way’ on both the city’s and developer’s part,” said Jim Robertson, manager of the urban design division in the city’s planning and zoning department. “But we worked together effectively, and we believe the changes that Aspen Heights made to the project, including sidewalk amenities and ground-level design enhancements, ended up making for a better project.”

Henry notes that Rise was initially proposed by others as a 12-story, 72-unit condominium complex, meaning the location will supply an additional 124 units in a part of downtown desperately in need of the supply.

“While Aspen Heights has been based in Austin since 2008, it wasn’t until 2013 that we actually started developing projects here,” Henry said. “It’s really nice for us to see these projects come to life. Each one stands on its own as a physical manifestation of the way we seek to think creatively in our industry and add value to our hometown.”