The Austin Community College District announces the purchase of the 13-acre Macy’s property at Highland Mall for future expansion.
“ACC is growing at a rapid pace, and acquiring this property will allow us to accommodate more students and provide the flexibility we need to expand existing facilities in the years to come,” says Dr. Stephen B. Kinslow, ACC president/CEO. “This is an investment in the college’s future that will also help revitalize the Highland area.”
This is ACC’s second Highland Mall purchase; in May 2010, the college acquired Dillard’s property to expand and consolidate administrative services and create additional classroom space.
The Macy’s site, located at 4300 E. Highland Mall Blvd., includes the two-story Macy’s building and accompanying 12.8 acres. ACC plans to renovate 223,000 square feet of former retail space, with the college considering multiple potential uses, including instructional space (particularly during planned renovations of current campuses), facilities for non-credit Continuing Education programs, administrative offices, and a conference center. The purchase price for the Macy’s property is $5 million. The college is evaluating a construction timeline.
“The Macy’s location offers great potential for expanding operations and student services,” says Dr. Barbara Mink, chair of the ACC Board of Trustees. “We believe this is a smart, cost-effective way to meet the needs presented by our continued growth.”
Like the Dillard’s location, the Macy’s property has many advantages, including ample parking, expansive floor space, and proximity to a new Capital MetroRail stop on Airport Boulevard and ACC administrative offices at Highland Business Center. Highland Mall has direct or immediate access from IH-35, U.S. 290, U.S. 183, RR 2222 and Airport Boulevard, easily connecting ACC students, faculty, and staff to the college’s campuses and many other points across the area.
“Austin Community College plays a critical role in improving the quality of life in Austin and across Central Texas,” says Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. “Obviously, Highland Mall is transitioning, and I’m pleased to see ACC stepping in to help ensure the area doesn’t suffer from the loss of retail but rather thrives as the result of new investment and new development opportunities.”
ACC made the Macy’s and Dillard’s acquisitions in partnership with RedLeaf Properties, LLC. RedLeaf principal Matt Whelan, who was recently involved in transforming the former Mueller Airport into a mixed-use development, will continue to work with ACC to explore the larger revitalization picture.
“Opportunities like these two buildings – with their outstanding central location, considerable acreage, and expansive footprints – do not come along that often,” says Whelan. “Highland Mall as a whole has some challenges, but we firmly believe both the existing buildings and the land around them are ideally suited for ACC’s near-term and long-term needs, as well as possibly supporting other uses over time.”
ACC also is finalizing plans to build two new campuses in Elgin and Hays County. The expansion projects are in accordance with the college’s Master Plan, a long-term strategy to expand programs and services to meet dramatic increases in enrollment mandated by the state’s Closing the Gaps initiative. The Master Plan calls for the college to accommodate enrollment increases through new campus construction and existing campus expansions. ACC has grown Weekend College and Distance Learning programs in order to maximize current facility usage and access for students.
In fall 2010, the college enrolled more than 44,000 credit students – an increase of nearly 10 percent over the previous fall. ACC projects enrollment will reach 54,000 by 2020.
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