Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify Northwood Investors' relationship to Domain Northside.

When Sianni Dean, owner of Cranky Granny’s Sweet Rolls, was looking for a location to open her first storefront, she said a spot in The Domain was No. 1 on her list.

The Domain had availability, and Dean was able to sign a one year lease at 10910 Domain Drive, Ste. 106, Austin. Cranky Granny’s, the business Dean started at age 18 in New Jersey, opened in The Domain on May 29, 2021.

“Before we moved here to Texas, one of the places that we kept hearing about was The Domain, so we knew it was a prominent place and a place where a lot of people were comfortable with coming to—one of those places where if you’re in Austin you have to go to The Domain to see what it’s like,” Dean said. “We wanted to be a part of that experience, so not only is The Domain somewhere that you need to go, but Cranky Granny’s at The Domain is somewhere that you need to go.”

In March, The Domain celebrated an anniversary: 15 years ago Domain I, the first of three retail and residential phases, opened. Since then The Domain area—bounded by MoPac, Braker Lane and Burnet Road—has grown exponentially with hotels, office buildings and high-rise apartments dotting the landscape and earning the area the nickname “Austin’s second downtown.”

Kristi Svec Simmons, a first vice president with commercial real estate group CBRE, said during an April 7 panel discussion on growth in North Austin that when corporate tenants are looking for office space, the two primary locations they consider are downtown or The Domain.

“Now you have more tech tenants looking up in North Austin than I’ve ever seen,” Simmons said.

Marking a milestone

Land for The Domain was first purchased by Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate Group in 1999. At the time, Endeavor envisioned The Domain as a tech hub. However, when the dot-com bubble burst, it shifted toward building a shopping destination.

Simon Property Group acquired the land where the first two phases of retail and residential development were planned in 2004. Phase I—anchored by Macy’s and Neiman Marcus—opened in March 2007. This was followed by the second phase, anchored by Dillard’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods, which opened in February 2010.

From the beginning, The Domain was intended to be a lifestyle development—a place where residents could live, shop and dine, said Kathleen Shields, senior vice president of development at Simon. Shields said The Domain was the first retail project in Austin to recruit luxury and high-fashion tenants—a mission it continues with the recent opening of brands such as Gucci and Golden Goose and the announcement of Saint Laurent Paris.

In 2016, Endeavor debuted Domain Northside, the third and final phase of retail development at The Domain, with the Rock Rose District aimed at providing a uniquely Austin experience with local retailers, service providers, bars and restaurants. Real estate investment firm Northwood Investors LLC became an ownership partner of Domain Northside in 2014, and in 2018 the firm partnered with Invesco on the property.

When Domain I opened 15 years ago—a milestone Shields said she was proud to see the development reach—it was the first destination of its kind in the city as well as the first hub of activity on the campus now collectively called The Domain.

“We were the first project to open, and I don’t think construction around us has stopped since,” Shields said. “We definitely were the first mover, and it was always the thought process that it would catalyze further development.”

The Domain is now home to more than 5,000 multifamily residential units and about 3.5 million square feet of office space.

Mike Brown, a residential architect, first moved to North Austin in 1991. He said in the years since The Domain was built, the area has changed in a variety of ways, including worsening traffic, increased building and residential density, and real estate prices appreciating. Still, Brown said he enjoys the atmosphere the development provides residents.

“Me being an architect, I of course like seeing things built—that’s my business,” Brown said. “I absolutely love to see the new stuff come up, all of the new contemporary buildings and all the new structures.”

Rising development

Now, years after the retail phases of The Domain have been built, growth in the area has shifted back to the development of office space and high-rise multifamily apartment buildings.

“The change that’s happened at The Domain in the last 11 years is, it’s gone from primarily a multifamily and retail development to a very active and vibrant Class A office building market,” said John Kiltz, managing partner at Stonelake Capital Partners, which purchased 33 acres in the southeast corner of The Domain in 2011.

On its land, which houses the IBM Domain 45 building, Stonelake has built three office buildings, two multifamily projects and a 2,400-car parking garage, Kiltz said. Additionally, the real estate private equity firm has acquired permitting and design plans for two more office buildings—Domain Tower 3 and Domain Tower 4.

Cousins Properties, another stakeholder at The Domain, owns 11 office buildings, including Domain 9, which is under construction at the northwest corner of Palm Way and Alterra Parkway. Altogether, Cousins’ Domain properties total nearly 2.5 million square feet and house tenants such as Meta.

Similarly, additional apartment complexes and 55-plus active living communities have gone in such as Maravilla at the Domain and Overture Domain.

This has added to the higher density in North Austin. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau 2020 American Community Survey shows ZIP code 78758 has the largest population of the six ZIP codes in Community Impact Newspaper’s Northwest Austin coverage zone.

The population of ZIP code 78758 increased from 43,577 in 2011 to 50,575 in 2020, a 16.06% change, according to ACS data.

Density concerns have largely been mitigated by the connectivity of the area with MoPac, US 183 and Loop 360 serving the area, Kiltz said. These major transportation routes, which serve both north-south and east-west traffic make The Domain attractive to customers and corporate tenants.

Shields said the continued growth is a realization of the vision Simon and other developers always had for the property.

“It’s a location that draws regionally. It’s quite easy to get to; it’s very accessible,” Shields said. “And, over time, with the amount of development around it, you also have a captive audience as well as the customers who come to the site from throughout the region.”

Far from build-out

Growth at The Domain has started expanding beyond its original boundaries, spilling east of Burnet Road and south of Braker Lane, a trend Kiltz said will only continue.

In late 2021, Brandywine Realty Trust broke ground on Uptown ATX, a 66-acre, $3 billion project located across from The Domain at 11501 Burnet Road. Brandywine purchased the site, formerly known as the IBM Broadmoor campus, from the international technology company in 2015.

Construction on Phase 1 of 3—dubbed One Uptown—is underway and will include 341 apartment units, 348,000 square feet of office space and 15,000 square feet of first-floor retail.

Bill Redd, executive vice president and senior managing director for Brandywine, said Uptown ATX’s shopping options will add value to the area.

“We’re not going to be a big-box retail destination,” Redd said during the North Austin Growth Summit. “So we won’t be competing in that area at all. We hope to be complementary so that we become an amenity base, not only for ourselves but for the main areas as well.”

Karlin Real Estate and Ironwood Real Estate are also developing a site near Q2 Stadium in partnership with Austin FC. The 6-acre site will bring a sports-entertainment district with a mix of uses, including retail, residential, office space and a hotel.

Officials with the Domain and Domain Northside said as the area changes, so will retail options.

Northwood, Simon, Stonelake and Cousins are just some of the property owners at The Domain. Kiltz said the fact so many developers want to be involved in The Domain is a good sign.

“I think [The Domain] is going to continue to get more and more dense,” Kiltz said. “There’s going to be a lot of development around The Domain—the Uptown ATX project, the projects that are around the stadium, the conversion of older warehouses that are east of The Domain into multifamily properties, and hotels and entertainment areas will continue to make it a larger and larger area for business and retail and residential.”