Article : The Domain: Austin’s Reclaimed Brownfield Becomes New Mixed-Use Villa

The Domain:
Austin’s Reclaimed Brownfield Becomes New Mixed-Use Villa

By Pomme Lee, LEED AP, The Lighting Practice

While landscape lighting is an important component of The Domain, the retailers desired accent lights to set them apart from the crowd. Metal halides provide the down lighting (39w PAR20) and up lighting (39-watt PAR30) for the retailer at right. The sconce lighting (left) is via 39-watt T6 metal halides.
Landscape Communications
John Deere
Cost of Wisconsin
Rain Bird
Ferris Industries Ryan
Valmont Playworld

In 1999, Endeavor Real Estate Group partnered with Blackstone Group and JER Partners to acquire the former IBM campus on North MoPac. What to do with the property went through several iterations. There were plans to raze the buildings and build office space for dot-com companies, then plans for a “telecom hotel.”

When neither of those hi-tech ventures panned out, plans for commercial and residential usage or “new urbanism” community came into focus. Some of the original investors were on board for the new approach. Endeavor refinanced with RREEF Alternative Investments and partnered with Illinois-based Simon Property Group Inc., a specialist in mall development.

The Domain in Austin is a new retail center built on 57 acres of reclaimed land. The property has 700,000 sq. ft. of retail shops, 75,000 sq. ft. of leased office space, and 390 residential units. The buildings are organized along drivable streets and pedestrian plazas.

A “vertical mixed use” approach took shape, i.e., stores on the ground level and residences above. The shopping demographic was planned for upscale commercial tenants to create a new urban core shopping destination. The appeal for the city fathers in rezoning from light industrial to high-end shopping wasn’t just about getting out-of-town shoppers spending their tax dollars within city limits, but also about keeping the city’s affluent shoppers “home.” Austin has a kind of “laid back” image, but there is that segment of the population with greater disposal income.

The new direction meant costly parking structures, improved public amenities, wide, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, public art and trees. Endeavor and the city struck a deal to facilitate these goals and help underwrite the costs.

The edges of the plaza are framed by 14-ft. tall pedestrian-scale metal halide pole luminaries (70-watt metal halide). The wall sconces were supplied by the tenant.

The Domain

The result is the former 57-acre corporate site in Northwest Austin, with its grove of enormous live oak trees, is now mixed-use development featuring 700,000 sq. ft. of retail shops, 75,000 sq. ft. of leased office space and 75,000 sq. ft. of office and residential space.

Trees remain an integral part of the site, giving it the appearance of a mature neighborhood. In designing lighting for the streets, building fa?ades, paseos, public art and landscaping, The Lighting Practice treated the trees and architecture as sculptures. Low-wattage ceramic metal halide was used to give streets and structures a soft, warm glow.

Paseos link pedestrian pathways to the parking structures. Recessed compact fluorescent lamps, 32-watts, fluorescent downlights and metal halide uplights keep the passageways bright. Wall sconces are by a local artist and lit by compact fluorescent lamps.

Tree canopies were uplighted like carved ceilings to create virtual rooms.

Although LEED certification was not sought, this lighting design for this project meets LEED requirements for Environmental Zone 4. The project has received an award of Merit from the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America.

Phase 1 of the project opened in 2007. Phase 2 opened in 2010. Even in the current down-market, The Domain continues to be leased and busy.

The project was planned to integrate several large existing oak trees, giving the streets and pathways a meandering quality. The lighting designers treated the oaks as sculptures, using one or two 70-watt metal halide luminaires per tree for up lighting, and 39w Par30 metal halides to cast light down the trees and onto buildings and hardscapes. Stainless steel hardware secures fixtures to the trees. Decorative low-voltage pendants are 35-watt MR-16.

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD)

In May 2005, the Austin City Council adopted a transit-oriented development (TOD) ordinance to take advantage of expanding development created by the construction of the new Capital Metro MetroRail commuter line between Austin and Leander. Major stops along the line were projected to grow as centers of retail and residential growth and jobs, self-contained and connected communities, as opposed to following the old model of development of far flung suburban communities.

Austin has seven TODs, six north of Town Lake and one south of the river, all connected by planned high-speed transit systems. While there have been delays in MetroRail, Capital Metro recently reported plans to begin service sometime after March 15, 2010.

Installations of local art, viewed in the planter, are accented by 39w Par20 metal halide luminaries to add “Austin weird” to the nightscape. The sconces on the column are lit with 39-watt T4 MH lamps.

Each TOD has its separate demands and needs. Some will be primarily employment centers, some retail or residential. Regardless, each TOD will have “density, diversity and design” in common, according to Lucy Galbraith, TOD manager for Capital Metro.

“Density” isn’t about the number of buildings per block, but the presence of enough people to make it feel like a community. There’s a psychological factor, that a busy street is a comfortable street.

“Diversity” refers to the various ethnicities within the transit district, various income levels and housing types. “Design” is deemed the most critical component of the three Ds. Transit plans depend on road design. The transit plan hopes to balance public, private and pedestrian traffic. For a really successful TOD, Galbraith believes that means you first think about how to make life easier for pedestrians.

Streets are lit by metal halide luminaire, 150w MH, on 22-ft.custom poles with signage. The pole spacing is staggered on curved streets and paired on straight streets to respond to the roadway contours.

Project Team

Simon Property Group
Endeavor Real Estate Group
Centro Development LLC (Residences)

• JPRA Architects (Master Plan, Retail and Office Buildings)
• RTKL (Residences)

Landscape Architect
J. Robert Anderson Landscape Architect

Lighting Designer
The Lighting Practice
Philadelphia, Dallas
IIDA Award of Merit for
the Domain project

General Contractor
Beck Group

Lighting Supplier
Techlite Corp.

The color and texture of building facades and streetscape elements are accented by adjustable 39w PAR20 metal halide luminaries (on pivots), giving the property a lively nighttime appearance.

About The Lighting Practice

The Lighting Practice was founded in 1989. The 20-year-old firm is a leader in lighting design, specializing in sustainable lighting for public spaces, retail, healthcare, hospitality, and education environments. With offices in Philadelphia and Dallas, a team of talented lighting designers have created lighting strategies for notable projects that include the Capitol Dome (Washington, D.C.), Avenue of the Arts (Philadelphia), White Rock Lake Park Lighting Masterplan (Dallas, Texas), Indiranagar Retail Center (Bangalore, India), and the Kempinski Hotel (Accra, Ghana). For more information on The Lighting Practice, please visit

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June 30, 2016, 3:30 pm EST

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