A marketing document published and distributed by Domain Northside, the popular mixed-use development in North Austin, drew fire from Austinites who have seen the brochure circulating on social media, local NBC affiliate KXAN reported Tuesday.
The brochure, which KXAN reported appeared to be created by Dallas developers Northwood Retail, includes a fairly standard marketing component for potential retail tenants: a description of the venue’s target demographic.
Most of brochure’s content—specifically, a description of “quintessential” Domain Northside shopper—struck many as elitist or classist (not surprising) as well as just silly in places (that shopper, the brochure asserts, is a woman who drives a Range Rover by day and BMW 6 series to “go out with her girlfriends at night”). The last item in the description—”[She] is most likely to describe her ethnicity as Anglo, Jewish, or Asian”—crossed a line.
The Austin Justice Coalition’s Chas Moore told KXAN that he first thought the brochure was “a joke or satire,” but he shared it on Facebook once he realized it wasn’t. While one of the people interviewed on the broadcast called it “appalling,” she also stated that it didn’t surprise her—a sentiment shared by Moore and others the station talked to, some of whom added that they were “disappointed.”
The Domain Northside and Northwood Retail issued the following apology, sent to KXAN and other outlets:
At Domain NORTHSIDE, we are proud to serve the residents of the Austin community and sincerely apologize for the insensitive and inappropriate language used in a document, which has since been removed from circulation and is no longer in use. These words do not reflect our values, and we remain dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion. We will ensure that future efforts reflect the values of the community in which we live and work.
The conversation on Facebook was more pointed, both before and after the apology, with one poster writing “Racism lives in Austin” in reference to the brochure, the Black Women in Business page posting “AUSTIN, WE have a problem!”, and another user describing the brochure and referring to the Domain Northside’s apology this way: “Insensitive? It’s racist.”
Another Facebook user raised more specific concerns about about what the brochure might indicate about what’s currently referred to as Project Catalyst, a Domain-like development that, according to post on the Towers website, is planned for a large area at Riverside Drive and Pleasant Valley Road, near the new Oracle Campus in East Austin. The demolition of relatively affordable apartment complex Ballpark East and the Town Lake Apartments, for instance, is inevitable, according to a more recent Towers story.
More general concerns about displacement of current and traditional residents in the area in favor of those who better fit the demographic described in the Domain Northside materials have intensified around the emergence of the brochure. One Facebook user described the current Domain as “a vast expanse of concrete and asphalt built in far north Austin so visitors (and new residents) from Dallas and Houston would feel more at home when they visit or move here. It’s filled with profoundly expensive stores with products most of us just look at and appreciate,” adding “They’re building one on east Riverside....east Riverside.”
• Domain marketing flyer criticized for being ‘insensitive’ [KXAN]
• Project Catalyst, Oracle’s East Riverside Neighbor, Might Be the Next Domain [Towers]
• Project Catalyst Documents Describe a 97-Acre Development in East Riverside [Towers]
• UT researchers unveil findings in East Austin gentrification study [Austin American-Statesman]