Northwest Austin has historically been the Texas city's 'Silicon Valley,' and tech's biggest players are still pouring in. Here's what it's like in Austin's 'second downtown.'

Katie Canales/Business InsiderNew towers at the Domain in North Austin will collectively house thousands more workers for Facebook, Amazon, and Austin-based vacation rental site Vrbo.
  • The tech industry has a long history in Austin,Texas, and the city largely has its northwest sector to thank for that.
  • In the 1970s, a handful of tech companies, like IBM and Texas Instruments, set up shop north of Downtown, helping to cement the northern region’s status as a centre of economic development.
  • In the middle of Northwest Austin is the Domain, a complex that was once primarily retail-oriented. But within the past few years as the tech industry continues to grow in the capital city, tech companies, high-density housing, more restaurants and retailers, and a high volume of workers have moved in.
  • The Domain has come to be known as the city’s “second downtown” as more mixed-use development attracts a greater percentage of Austin’s workforce.
  • “It’s professionals and high-tech workers,” Austin economist Angelos Angelou told Business Insider. “They love the environment.”
  • Here’s how the Domain is carrying on the Northwest Austin region’s legacy as a tech hub.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.


Austin continues to be an attractive destination for tech employers as the metro area’s lower cost of living, large talent pool, and high quality of life draw workers into the region.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderScooterists in Downtown Austin.

Source: Built In Austin


Tech has ballooned noticeably in the last eight years especially, but the industry has a long history in the capital city.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderScooterists in Austin’s South Congress District.

Source: Austin-American Statesman


And it has its northwest sector to thank for that — that’s where the city’s successful enterprise software and hardware players, or “old Austin tech,” set up shop decades ago, Paul O’Brien, CEO of MediaTech Ventures, told Business Insider.

Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia Commons/CC Attribution 3.0A National Instruments office in North Austin.

“The Silicon Valley parallel would be that’s the old HP garage,” according to O’Brien, who lived and worked in the Bay Area at Yahoo and Hewlett Packard before moving to Austin in 2010.

Gregory Smith/Contributor/Getty ImagesA woman tests Dell computers on an assembly line in Austin, Texas, in October 1998.

A handful of companies, like IBM and Texas Instruments, touched down in Austin in the late 1960s and 1970s and served as building blocks on which Austin’s current tech community would be built in the years to come.

Drew Anthony Smith/AP Images for Booz Allen HamiltonAustin Startup Week in 2019.

Source: Austin-American Statesman


Both IBM and Texas Instruments are just two of the companies that chose Northwest Austin for their office location, setting up that region specifically for substantial economic development.

OpenStreetMap/Business Insider

Source: Austin Business Journal


General Motors, 3M, and Samsung later chose Northwest Austin as well and set up shop along Parmer Lane, which serves as a prominent business corridor through North Austin.

Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty ImagesSamsung Chairman Jong-Yong Yun (third from the right) along with Texas Governor Rick Perry (third from the left) at the grand opening ceremonies at Samsung Austin Semiconductor (SAS) for ‘Fab 2’ manufacturing facility in Austin.

Source: Community Impact


Parmer Lane is where Apple first planted its roots in the 1990s, and the Silicon Valley giant’s new $US1 billion campus will be a mile away from its existing location on Parmer Lane, potentially adding 15,000 more workers to its Austin workforce.

Suzanne Cordiero/AFP/Getty ImagesApple’s campus in Austin, Texas, on December 13, 2018.

Source: Community Impact and Business Insider


Cisco, National Instruments, Bazaarvoice, Oracle, and Microsoft have since filed in as well, further solidifying the area’s tech reputation akin to that of Silicon Valley’s.

OpenStreetMap/Business InsiderSome of the tech companies in Northwest Austin.

Source: SEO’Brien


In a 2016 blog post, O’Brien wrote that “driving around here feels like driving around Mountain View and San Mateo, with Apple, Samsung, Cisco, Google, IBM, Microsoft campuses and more making it clear that you’re in tech country.”

Katie Canales/Business InsiderA Tesla is seen at the Domain in Northwest Austin.

Source: SEO’Brien


Besides Parmer Lane, another one of the main thoroughfares through this part of town is Highway 183, known as Research Boulevard, which is where Texas Instruments built its campus in 1969.

OpenStreetMap/Business InsiderUS 183 is outlined in red above.

Source: Austin Business Journal


There’s also Texas Loop 1, or MoPac Expressway, and The Capital of Texas Highway, or Loop 360.

Aaron Jacobs/Flickr/CC Attribution 2.5 GenericTexas Loop 1 or MoPac Expressway.

Certain coffee shops along 360 are mainstays for the city’s venture capitalists and tech workers, who opt for cosy spots like 360 Uno and Monkey Nest to talk shop, O’Brien wrote on his blog, SEO’Brien.

Source: SEO’Brien


“You can kind of think of 360 as Sand Hill Road,” O’Brien told Business Insider.

Matthew Rutledge/Flickr/Attribution 2.0 GenericDowntown Austin is seen north of the city with the Pennybacker Bridge on 360 in the foreground.

All three roads — US 183, Loop 1, and Loop 360 — converge roughly in the same part of Northwest Austin.

OpenStreetMap/Business Insider

The Domain, about ten miles north of downtown Austin, is right next to that epicentre.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderThe Domain in North Austin.

The Domain is one of two major shopping complexes in Northwest Austin, the other being the Arboretum not far away.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderYou can purchase a cupcake via an ATM at Sprinkles at the Domain.

What is now the Domain was where IBM, a veteran of “old Austin tech” as O’Brien put it, initially planted its roots in 1967 with a manufacturing plant.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderIBM offices are located behind construction currently in progress at the Domain.

Source: Austin-American Statesman


The shopping centre eventually grew and surrounded the plant, but the Domain project as it’s known today almost never came to fruition, thanks to the dot-com bust in the early 2000s.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: Austin-American Statesman


The 300 acres were originally intended to be an office campus housing some of the biggest tech companies flocking to Austin during the tech boom of the late 1990s, as reported by the Statesman.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: Austin-American Statesman


The real-estate group overseeing the project at the time had to reimagine the land’s vision and settled on turning it into an upscale retail centre. It opened in 2007 with a Neiman Marcus as one of its anchor stores.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: Austin-American Statesman


The Domain is still a hot shopping destination, with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton mingling with more affordable fast-fashion brands like Zara and Forever21.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: Austin-American Statesman


But in the past five years or so, tech companies like Vrbo, Facebook, Amazon, Indeed, and Adobe have moved in, Austin economist Angelos Angelou told Business Insider.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderVrbo and WeWork’s offices at the Domain.

And so the Domain has become what the complex was meant to be all along.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderSoftware company Blackbaud’s office at the Domain.

Source: Austin-American Statesman


High-density housing has gone up in response, and restaurants, apartments, shopping, entertainment, and office buildings provide tech professionals with all they need for a work-life balance, said Angelou.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

“It’s attractive to a new technology employee locating in that part of town,” Angelou said.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderA Juiceland location near the Nordstrom store at the Domain.

Expedia’s Vrbo, the Austin-based vacation-rental site once called HomeAway, was one of the first to move into the area in 2013 and kicked off a ripple effect that saw more and more tech offices gravitate to the Domain.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: Austin-American Statesman


Its global headquarters is housed in a 16-story high-rise at the north end of the Domain, known as Domain Northside, and employs up to 2,000 workers.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderVRBO’s new tower.

Source: Austin-American Statesman and Built In Austin


Vrbo’s tower is just one of the newer additions to the Domain. It will be neighbours with a new high-rise leased mostly by West Coast e-commerce behemoth Amazon.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: KXAN


The jobs created by Amazon’s new office space will push its total Austin metro area workforce to 7,400, beefing up its count to rival that of Apple’s, which sits as Austin’s No. 2 tech employer after hometown tech giant Dell.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderNew towers that will house Amazon and Facebook are seen in the distance at the Domain.

Source: American Inno


Amazon and Vrbo will move into towers that form a triad with another 17-story high-rise currently under construction, leased in its entirety by Facebook.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: Austin-American Statesman


Facebook and Amazon both already lease office space at the Domain at another building not far from where the new towers will open.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderA tower under construction is seen in the distance.

Source: Built In Austin


The Domain isn’t the only part of Austin where employers are competing for the city’s tech talent, but Angelou said the Domain does have an advantage thanks to its amenities.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderA woman walks past one of the Domain’s many restaurants.

After hours, workers at the Domain only need to walk out of their offices to have what they need at their fingertips.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Near the new towers where Vrbo, Facebook, and Amazon will move in is a Whole Foods. The pricey, health-conscious chain, acquired by Amazon in 2017, is the only grocery store in the Domain. Though an H-E-B — a beloved and more affordable Texan store — isn’t too far away by car.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: Business Insider


If you’re wanting to eat out, a slew of restaurants, from the health-conscious Flower Child to Austin favourite Lavaca Street Bar, are sprinkled up and down the Domain corridor.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Shops like Away, Warby Parker, Marine Layer, and Peloton would make a Bay Area transplant feel right at home.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

And big department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom anchor the community.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Housing at the Domain can be pricey — one-bedroom apartments at the Residences at the Domain, for example, start at $US1,366 a month, a bit higher than Austin’s average one-bedroom rent of $US1,190.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: Curbed Austin and Residences at the Domain


And a nightlife district, Rock Rose, keeps popping late into the evening with bars and clubs.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderA bar on Rock Rose Ave. at the Domain.

Expansion at and around the Domain isn’t slowing down either — an office campus that includes IBM offices sits next to the Domain and is undergoing a 6 million-square-foot development. And a proposal for a Major League Soccer stadium is in the works as well.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderConstruction on the building that will house Amazon is seen in the distance.

Source: Community Impact


The area has seen so much growth that the Domain has earned the nickname the “second downtown.”

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: Community Impact and Austin Culture Map and Austin Business Journal


Part of why the Domain has seen such an influx of employers is because of the pool of tech talent that resides in Northwest Austin in the first place, Angelou said.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderA Tesla showroom at the Domain.

“Most of the technology community right now is in Northwest Austin and that’s where the workforce lives — anywhere from parts of Williamson County, Round Rock, all the way to Cedar Park and Leander,” Angelou said.

OpenStreetMap/Business Insider

Professionals with deeper pockets specifically post up in a cluster of neighbourhoods to the west and north of Downtown, like West Lake Hills.

Flickr/Matthew Rutledge/CC Attribution 2.0Downtown Austin is seen from the west.

Source: SEO’Brien


That’s not to say that tech development can only be found in Northwest Austin. It’s everywhere, from East Austin to Downtown, though it wasn’t always that way, O’Brien said.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderVrbo and WeWork’s offices at the Domain.


Read more:
As Big Tech doubles down on Austin, startups are moving to its cooler neighbour. Take a look at how one startup is bringing Silicon Valley style to East Austin.


“Downtown was ‘Keep Austin Weird,’” O’Brien told Business Insider. “It was the music, and what we know of as Austin.”

Katie Canales/Business InsiderDowntown Austin.

But in the 2000s, tech companies started looking downtown for office space. The Austin-based Silicon Labs was the first tech company to do so in 2005, Angelou said.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderA Silicon Labs office is seen from across Town Lake in Downtown Austin.

Source: Austin Business Journal


But traffic became a nightmare and office rent started to rise. So nowadays, Angelou said, only the largest companies can afford office space downtown, not small or mid-sized companies like it once was.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderAn Indeed office in Downtown Austin.

“The Google’s of the world and the Facebook’s of the world began to look at Downtown because you make a statement with Downtown office space,” Angelou said.

Eric Gay/APThe 29-story ‘Google Building’ in Downtown Austin in 2018.

According to a report by Austin real-estate agency Aquila Commercial, the full-service rental rate for office space was $US67.18 per square foot in mid-2019. At the Domain, it was $US44.14.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderThe Austin-based software company Absolute’s office at the Domain.

Source: Aquila Commercial


So having more than one city centre has benefitted Austin’s tech and business ecosystem, allowing companies to set up shop where they wish depending on costs, the kind of tech they’re focusing on, and the workforce they’re trying to attract, Angelou said.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderThe Domain.

But as Austin’s tech boom continues, and companies need more space, it’s only a matter of time before more projects like the Domain start sprouting up.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderThe tower leased by Facebook at the Domain.

“They don’t have unlimited land, so eventually they’re going to run out of property, and then we’ll get another Domain somewhere else perhaps,” Angelou said.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderThe Austin-based jewellery company Kendra Scott’s Domain location.

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