Signing a retail lease at The Domain was a huge step for Birds Barbershop co-founder Michael Portman, who refers to himself as a South Austin guy with a preference for local tastes.

But when he and co-founder Jayson Rapaport heard about Domain developer Endeavor Real Estate Group’s plans for the Rock Rose district, they were sold on the idea of a curated selection of Austin businesses anchoring the third and final retail phase of The Domain.

“From what I hear from all my friends north … The Domain is the new [central business district] of the north,” Portman said. “It’s just too far to drive to Central Austin for so many people.”

About 1.4 million square feet of retail, residential, office and hotel space is under construction at The Domain in the third phase. Part of that is a new retail district dubbed Rock Rose, which will be Endeavor’s final retail phase in The Domain. This area also includes the fourth Domain hotel—Archer Hotel Austin—as well as the new Nordstrom.

Construction began in September, and Endeavor is planning a grand opening for the new retail district in fall 2016.

‘Austin’s second downtown’

The idea for the Rock Rose district grew out of Endeavor’s perception that The Domain lacked retail space specifically for Austin businesses. Endeavor approached many successful Austin-based businesses, including Birds.

“We were fortunate enough to have many understand and latch onto the vision,” said Ben Bufkin, a principal at Endeavor who is spearheading the project. “They’ve been coming together, locking arms. I think that’s going to make this one of the most exciting streets in Austin.”

Between 25 and 30 tenants will occupy the new retail district with most being local. A confirmed list of tenants includes Salvation Pizza, The Dogwood, Sainte Genevieve, Viva Day Spa, East Side King, Lavaca Street Bar and Kung Fu Saloon. Many tenants will open this fall, including Birds.

“We kind of all share a lot of the same customers, and that [was a bonus to] get us to move there,” Portman said, citing East Side King and Kung Fu Saloon.

Tenants were given creative freedom to design their spaces, including the exterior facade. This was refreshing to Rapaport and Portman. Each of their soon-to-be eight locations has its own theme. The Domain location theme is outdoor yard sports—think croquet and wicker chairs, Portman said.

“They gave us the kind of creative freedom that is just unheard of,” he said. “The plan now is to wall our front in AstroTurf. They’re not just encouraging but pushing the tenants to be as creative as possible.”

Chris Horne, managing partner at Kung Fu Saloon, said the business is planning something special for the new location, which will include karaoke rooms, an outdoor patio and a food menu.

“Endeavor has really great foresight in creating a locally focused district,” he said. “That shows how well they understand Austin. That was a big thing that attracted us.”

The Rock Rose district will also open opportunities for more Domain-based events or expanding existing events into the new retail district.

“We think there are common-area places within the project that will be used in many cases on a weekly basis for small community events,” Bufkin said.

Overall Bufkin said the mixed-use development has achieved Endeavor’s vision.

“The original vision for Domain has been to build a dense node that is an extension of the city and Austin’s second downtown,” he said. “By and large I think that vision has really started to become realized and in many cases has been realized.”

Expanding living, office space

Including the new apartment complex Gallery at Domain that opened May 8, The Domain has 2,250 residential units with another 563 units under construction near the Aloft Austin Hotel, Bufkin said. Gallery at Domain is located across the street from the 9-acre Central Park and has 316 units.

Bufkin said early Domain plans called for the densest area of apartments to be located near the park. Future Domain plans indicate other residential projects would be built near the park. Ultimately the development will have a total of 5,000 residential units.

The newest office building, dubbed Domain 7, opened in December with 222,000 square feet of space. In May, Endeavor also broke ground on another office building called Domain 5, which is located next door to the Gallery at Domain. That building will have three floors and 75,000 square feet of space. Endeavor is still planning the Domain 8 office building, which would be about 255,000 square feet in size with 11 floors.

Endeavor envisions most office buildings to be located on Alterra Parkway, but construction of future buildings likely depends on demand, Bufkin said.

“There’s no definitive plans for other office [buildings] at this time,” he said.

Creating a gathering space

In February, Simon Property Group, which owns the first and second retail phases of The Domain, opened its great lawn venue near iPic Theaters. The area features a shade structure over the lawn and a play area for children.

The concept arose from feedback from retailers, residents and shoppers who desired a gathering place in The Domain 2 retail portion between Dillard’s to Dick’s Sporting Goods, said Lauren Krumlauf, Simon’s area director of marketing for The Domain.

“Part of the changes we made were to give it its own identity, where it can exist as part of The Domain but could sit on its own [and be] a place people specifically want to go and enjoy,” she said.

Most events hosted at The Domain, including Taste North Austin and Dogtoberfest, will relocate from The Domain 1
retail portion between Macy’s and Neiman Marcus to the new lawn venue.

Simon also brought in several food trucks, such as Baby’s Badass Burgers and Kababeque. Krumlauf said this allows local restaurants to try out a brand before committing to retail space.

“We knew locally some of the feedback we’ve had is customers would like us to have more fast-casual dining, easier accessibility on the go,” she said. “The food trucks are a great way to bring in unique variety and to be able to change it out. The food truck scene is huge in Austin, so it sort of adds a local flavor.”

Simon’s future at The Domain for now exists at phases 1 and 2. But Krumlauf said construction in Phase 3 only helps the existing center.

“The things that are happening in The Domain are good for The Domain as a whole,” she said. “Domain 3 with Nordstrom and tenants they have planned will only benefit us [and] will only make The Domain a stronger destination.”