In recognizing the dynamic nature of Austin, Texas, the goal with Domain NORTHSIDE has always been to meet the need for a better mixed-use environment with innovative retail, hotel, office and residential experiences. Home to the Rock Rose entertainment district, the center is the latest evolution in mixed-use real estate in North Austin.
The vision for Domain NORTHSIDE was to create a second downtown of sorts in North Austin. A unique energy and atmosphere of the open-air project starts with the scale, streetscape and merchandising mix, and extends to the on-site programming. Most of a center’s character comes from its local tenants, followed by its atmosphere and events. People need to feel an emotional and social connection to the property, and that connection was supported by creating one of Austin’s largest murals in an unexpected place — a rooftop.
Domain NORTHSIDE has 135 stores, including locals like Nina Berenato and Viva Day Spa + Med Spa, and first-to-market DTC concepts like The RealReal, Mejuri Faherty and Anine Bing. Northwood Retail constantly seeks to bring in trailblazing brands, taking its marketing to a new level to align with these concepts and the overall boom in Austin.
Making an Artistic Statement to Promote Mixed-Use Retail
In 2021, the center commissioned a 30,000-square-foot mural for an otherwise unused space, a rooftop that sits above Perry’s Steakhouse and Grille. The larger-than-life piece can be seen from nearby buildings and often catches the eye of airline travelers. It is also used for events, livestreamed concerts, music videos, unique activations and more.
Designed by Tucson, Ariz.-based artist Ignacio Garcia, the massive mural represents some of the most celebrated elements in Austin and Texas. The hand-painted three-dimensional guitar was designed to highlight the characteristics that make the city so unique. Within the guitar, the artist incorporated a Willie Nelson portrait, a longhorn, bats and bluebonnets, among many other special elements, paying homage to what makes the city one-of-a-kind. The piece, which took three weeks to complete, can be seen from the office towers at Domain NORTHSIDE and is one of the most expansive murals in the city to date.
The original idea for the mural stemmed from a leasing meeting with an out-of-the-box retailer, Two Bit Circus — open now at one of Northwood’s Dallas centers — while discussing a Google map pin of an L.A. rooftop mural. Northwood Retail was inspired to take a twist on that idea with a rooftop art piece that felt authentic to Austin.
As the music capital of the world, a guitar covered with concert stickers reflective of Austin’s vibrant culture fit the bill. Domain NORTHSIDE wanted to push the envelope and use the guitar mural as a figurative instrument to make a placemaking statement while also transforming a previously nonfunctional space into an extraordinary experience for its guests. The art piece adds to the property’s visual impact, provides an incredible backdrop for social content and garners social media traction via snapshots by people flying over the venue on their way into and out of Austin.
Exploring Limitless Opportunities for the Rooftop Space
Beyond the visual enhancement, the marketing team at Domain NORTHSIDE has found unique ways to utilize the space for concerts, activations, live broadcasts and more. In May 2022, the center hosted a free concert with The Unlikely Candidates, during which the band began its performance on the rooftop with the show livestreamed to the audience waiting below at the stage on Domain Boulevard. The performers then descended from the rooftop and joined the crowd on the street to continue the show.
In September 2022, the center hosted another free concert in the same format with The Wrecks and opener Mothé. Both concerts saw hundreds in attendance and were also livestreamed through Domain NORTHSIDE’s YouTube Channel and ACL Radio Live, where hundreds of fans who couldn’t attend the performance could watch, giving the rooftop mural amped-up exposure.
In October 2022, Formula 1 visited Austin for its Circuit of the Americas tour and ESPN Radio partnered with NORTHSIDE to produce live broadcasting from the rooftop. Photoshoots and additional traveling attraction setups are also in the works.
Beyond the connection fostered with concertgoers, partners and visitors, the response from the city has been extremely positive. The initial announcement about the mural garnered significant media attention from local outlets and was shared exponentially on social media by local guides and residents alike.
Looking ahead, Domain NORTHSIDE hopes to continue to build awareness and boost affinity by activating the mural space in new and unexpected ways. Whether it’s a photoshoot or livestreaming sessions with the hottest bands, the center will keep pushing ahead for the next big idea that lines up with the large-scale mural and the continued growth of the asset.
Ward A. Kampf serves as President of Northwood Retail. Since joining the organization in 2014, he has been responsible for developing and implementing the company’s strategic vision, building trusted relationships with regional and national retailers and managing long-term leasing ventures. Kampf has an envelope-pushing intuition and forward-thinking mindset that has propelled Northwood Retail’s portfolio to contain more than 85 first-to-market tenants and over 30 digitally native brands throughout its properties, which span from California and Texas to the Carolinas. Kampf has been instrumental in creating dynamic assets such as Domain NORTHSIDE in Austin, Texas and The Forum Carlsbad in North County, San Diego.