The Domain in Austin Texas, photo by Peter French

An Alternative to Downtown Austin: The Domain

Sung by Petula Clark in her 1964 hit song “Downtown”, the words evoke the allure of going downtown. As frontier towns like Austin, TX grew into cities, their centers offered gathering spots for supplies, meals, lodging, bars, socializing and seeing others and being seen. The same rugged pioneer spirit that settled Texas attracted entrepreneurs who found a ready market for their goods and services.

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go

When you’ve got worries all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help I know

Yet downtown is as much a concept with a special atmosphere and specific attraction as a geographical location. The culture, energy and vitality of a downtown can be created or replicated, and the Domain Northside in North Austin, TX, is living proof.

The Rice Kinder Institute of Urban Research, based at Rice University in Houston, acknowledges the multiplicity of downtowns. “America is changing, and it is changing rapidly in front of our eyes,” Alexander Garvin, author of “The Heart of the City” and professor at the Yale School of Architecture, said at a recent Rice Kinder lecture. “Cities have more than one downtown. Atlanta has three, New York City has seven or eight. And what many people in Houston don’t know is that you have at least three or four.” According to Garvin, there are four major reasons: technology, transportation, population and lifestyle.

The Domain: A Mixed Use Space

The downtowns of old were not labeled mixed-use, but the general approach has not changed. Where the mercantile or dry goods stores sold everything from fabric, boots and hunting accessories to candy, towels, dishes and socks, Domain Northside boasts individual shops like Room & Board for home décor, Forhoh for hunting and outdoor gear, Everything But Water for swim and resort wear, Nike for shoes and socks and dozens more. Services like medical care and banking can be found here as well.

Whereas early settlements in the country grew with streets radiating out of downtown and ranches and farms on the outskirts and farther away, Domain Northside is a serious version of an all-inclusive live, work and play environment. Of course, downtown apartments and living over the store are not entirely new. Ronald Reagan lived over the store in Tampico, Ill., when his dad was manager of the shoe store on the first floor. When Reagan became President of the United states, he quipped that once again he lived over the store.

Living and Entertainment at The Domain

The many apartments at the Domain in Austin, TX offer luxury accommodations in studio, one and two-bedroom configurations. Resort-style swimming pools, state-of-the-art fitness centers, multiple gardens, pet park, dog-washing station and lounge spaces. All of this creates a maintenance-free, easy-peasy lifestyle coveted by urbanites who want to spend time enjoying the buzz of downtown and everything conveniently nearby.

The Rock Rose entertainment district teems with innovative activities, music, an art-infused street scene and all manner of entertainment, eateries and bars. The Rose Room is “a forum for sound and light, where dance and music synthesize into a cacophonous symphony of energy.” [] This hot club offers three levels of table service: dance floor, mid mezzanine and balcony. It is innovative, chic and edgy with a splash of racy energy and visual stimuli.

The downtown Austin of the mid-1800s, which may have sported a couple diners, some saloons, a hotel dining room and a restaurant, has evolved into a multi-cultural dining extravaganza. Flower Child creates every tidbit from scratch, and 77° Rooftop features exotic rum drinks, tapas and upscale snacks. The Dogwood emanates southern-style hospitality with fried green tomatoes and jalapeño mac and cheese, while Jack & Ginger’s brings an Irish flair to the scene. There’s no shortage of Tex-Mex, pastries, ice cream, burgers, fine dining or casual comfort food.

The entire Domain Northside in Austin, TX complex embraces the new brand of going downtown. Petula Clark hit the proverbial nail on the head with the admonishment not to engage in any self-pity parties, but go downtown.

Expansion Plans for Other Parts of Austin

But it’s not just the Domain that’s expanding. The North Burnet area of Austin, especially the region of the Domain near the old IBM Campus may be seeing taller buildings in the very near future. With the recent addition of the Austin FC Q2 Stadium, the area will clearly see an increase in the need for property. This includes mixed-use neighborhoods, pedestrian access and convenient connections to public transportation. Known as The North Burnet Gateway Regulating Plan, this 2,300 acre area has been under consideration since 2006, and has been amended several times since. Since Downtown Austin, TX proper has been expanding and has become crowded, plans to reach northward in the city seem very likely.

Habitat Hunters’ agents are on top of the new construction, whether it be for buying, leasing residential or commercial properties.

Don’t hang around and let your problems surround you
There are movie shows

Maybe you know some little places to go to
Where they never close

Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova
You’ll be dancing with ’em too before the night is over
Happy again

The light’s so much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown