New Domain Northside development aids local businesses

Amy Denney |
Source: Community Impact Newspaper

In 2016, more than 70 stores and restaurants opened in Domain Northside, the newest shopping and dining district of The Domain—and there is more to come in 2017.

“That’s just huge. We were able to deliver what we believe are the best-of-class brands in Austin in a very large capacity,” said Julie Sutton, director of marketing for Domain Northside and the Rock Rose district with Endeavor Real Estate Group.

The 614,300-square-foot, mixed-use center in North Austin is the brainchild of Austin-based Endeavor, the original developer of The Domain that later sold the first phase to Simon Property Group.

In 1999, Endeavor envisioned The Domain as a tech hub, but when the dot-com bubble burst, the company shifted gears toward planning a shopping destination.

The first portion of The Domain opened in March 2007—anchored by Macy’s and Neiman Marcus—and the second phase opened in February 2010, anchored by Dillard’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Those phases remain separate from Domain Northside.

Amid national brands, such as Nordstrom, Sephora, Hanna Andersson, Planet Blue and Warby Parker, Domain Northside also has plenty of local Austin flair. The signature street in the development is Rock Rose Avenue, which showcases local bars, restaurants, retail and service businesses.

“Even though we are battling the acquaintance period—not everyone knows who we are and what brands we have—people that do know have responded very well,” Sutton said. “That has resulted in strong sales for our tenants.”

Surging sales

Locally owned women’s apparel shop Golden Bones, which closed its stand-alone storefront on Koenig Lane in 2016 to reopen in Domain Northside’s Rock Rose district, also has noted strong sales since opening Sept. 30.

“Sometimes what we did in an entire week [in sales] we’ll do in a day,” Golden Bones co-owner Bijou Finney said. “Traffic has been a lot better.”

She and co-owner Kassandra Foster had not planned to move into a mall setting but were looking to relocate the business. Finney said the shift has not only allowed them to offer new products but also find new demographics.

“It’s really opened our eyes to how many people are traveling to Austin and how diverse North Austin is,” she said.

Finney and Foster also launched their own apparel line called Skull Sisters, offering T-shirts, tanks and outerwear such as sweaters. To cater to those new demographics, the business began offering gifts and baby wear.

Finney said Endeavor has also been open to tenants’ ideas on drawing more people, whether it be families or the party crowd.

“It’s difficult to bring so many brands together and do build-out all at once,” Finney said. “There have been some bumps, but overall things are good. It’s very different from being a stand-alone small business.”

Local affiliation

Endeavor’s team handpicked many tenants for its Austin-focused development, including Birds Barbershop, Kung Fu Saloon, The Dogwood, Golden Bones and Eliza Page.

Elizabeth Page Gibson said about half of the items she sells at her jewelry store, Eliza Page, are made in Austin, including her own line. It is a tidbit that staffers tell each new customer who enters the shop.

“Customers appreciate the local selection, and that’s one of the reasons people live here,” Gibson said.

Because Eliza Page’s first location has been in downtown Austin since 2004, Gibson said she has built a strong customer base. She said that made the decision to expand to a second location easy for her. And when Endeavor approached her in summer 2015 about opening in Domain Northside, she jumped on the idea to have a location that was easier to access and is still highly visible.

“What we’ve heard from our customers is they’re excited to see we’re up here,” Gibson said. “[Being local] gives us some credibility, and customers say it’s a nice addition to see some of their favorite stores.”

Attracting crowds

Domain Northside also differs from The Domain’s first phases by giving tenants more control over how their stores’ facades look as well as incorporating more outdoor seating and public art, Sutton said.

“We’re seeing a lot of people really enjoying them,” she said. “We hope people are eager to use it as we are to activate it. … The flow of how [the development is] designed, it leads you from one delightful experience to the next.”

At the center of the development is the Northside lawn, which features a 30-foot-tall art installation created by Houston-based Flying Carpet Creative. The woven stainless canopy is also lit up at night.

The lawn will be at the center of several events planned for 2017, including the new monthly Northside Kids beginning Feb. 1. The event series will be from 10 a.m.-noon on the first Wednesday of the month and is geared toward children ages 18 months-6 years.

“[Domain Northside] is a project that is very much geared toward community, and part of that community is really strong families,” Sutton said.

Because the Rock Rose district located on Rock Rose Avenue in Domain Northside features local bars and restaurants, Endeavor begin hosting Third Thursdays last October to tap into the existing crowds. Businesses offer happy hour specials and retail discounts from 6-9 p.m., and local bands perform live music.

Sutton said Endeavor is planning to host more frequent events for the community in 2017, including an anniversary celebration this fall.