For the last four months I’ve harbored oddly suspicious feelings towards “The Domain.” According to Austinites it’s a self contained city in the unfashionable north end of town where brainwashed denizens peel the skin off panhandlers to make buttery soft leather coats. That seemed a little extreme to me. Baking in the Austin sun, your average panhandler here has the coarsely wrinkled texture of a slice of beef jerky snatched off a barbershop floor.
Today I bravely ventured into this frightening land in the name of networking. What I found would frighten…intimidate…moderately annoy… er, okay, let’s be honest here. It’s just an upscale outdoor mall. Maybe they could smell the journalism experience on me and quickly hid all the knives behind potted plants. Maybe if I’d looked close I would’ve discovered the adorable kids playing outside had carefully sharpied pupils onto their dead, white zombie eyes. Maybe the Aeropostale shop has a thriving side business posting letters straight to hell.
If so, they covered it pretty well. What I saw was a pretty expensive new housing development full of stores where I can’t afford to shop. If I could afford to live there I think I’d like it. I’m a huge fan of mixed use communities. Why put up a regular mall when you can create a mall with three floors of apartments above the stores? How is that intrinsically different from a historic district with quirky local shops on the first floor and awesome artist apartments upstairs?
Oh, wait. These are mainstream, high end, national chain shops and the apartments are full of well off people who work in tech. I get the resentment. Life’s a little easier when rich people kindly tuck themselves out of sight so the rest of us don’t have to clamp down on the gut instinct to punch their annoying, overprivileged kids in the throat.
But what are the other options? Set up an traditional sprawling mall then, a few miles away, set up an equally sprawling apartment complex. Why not combine the two? Austin doesn’t have historic districts. There are no old ghettos full of decaying Victorian buildings for locals to gentrify. Instead, the old parts of town mostly consist of two bedroom bungalows built after WWII as cheap places to house government workers.
So as much as locals love to hate on it, I’m glad to see some local developers putting up mixed use areas like The Domain. I miss my old Frankfort Avenue neighborhood in Louisville. Having a corner coffee shop, corner bar, corner bookstore, Greek restaurant, and resale clothing shop all within two blocks and over 40 restaurants within a half mile walk was awesome. I absolutely loved being able to leave my car parked for days in a row because everything I needed was in easy walking distance.
I can’t do that here. The only things in walking distance are a Taco Bell and a McDonalds, both carefully positioned to serve highway traffic. Past that, there’s a semi abandoned rock quarry in one direction (which just begs for a Tardis tent, a red shirt uniform, or other video shenanigans) and endless tract housing in the other direction.
So good on you, developers. Bring us more of the same. I’d love to live above a sushi restaurant and across the street from a movie theater. Sure, it’d be awesome if they were locally owned, but better a national chain with locals living in the attic than a sprawling 15 mile drive just to reach either sushi or movies.
It’s late. I’m a little wobbly. Maybe I’m anemic from blood loss and half blind from the dead eyed children’s evil spells. I should check my body for suspicious new scars or puncture wounds tomorrow morning. This reads too much like I drank the Kool-Aid. The Domain is evil. This I know. For downtown’s hipsters tell me so.