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ACC Takes Ownership of Highland Mall

The Austin Community College District has acquired the final element of Highland Mall – the ground lease for the core building that houses retail tenants, the former Dillard’s men’s store, and common spaces such as the food court, as well as the former cinema building. Through acquisition of the ground lease, the college takes immediate ownership of the space, permitting ACC to move forward more quickly with its plans for revitalization of the site.

Highland Mall

Highland Mall

“This is exciting news for the college and the community. With this acquisition, we can accelerate plans for the mall and go to work on our first Highland project – renovating the former J.C. Penney property,” says Dr. Richard Rhodes, ACC president/CEO. “That vacant building has been dormant for some time. Now it will become a center for innovative learning and bring renewed energy to a very important part of Austin.”

The college previously purchased the Dillard’s women’s, Macy’s, and J.C. Penney properties as well as the surface parking areas. ACC now has acquired the ground lease for the core mall building from LNR Property LLC at a cost of approximately $1.5 million; before the current acquisition, the core mall building was subject to a ground lease through 2070 with the company operating the mall.

Mall business is expected to continue as usual for the immediate future, and the college has retained Jones Lang LaSalle to manage mall operations. ACC will work with tenants and the community and provide updates as plans develop.

“ACC recognizes the important role Highland Mall has played as one of the area’s first suburban shopping malls,” says Dr. Barbara Mink, chair of the ACC Board of Trustees. “We will continue to partner with neighborhood groups, the city, and other stakeholders as Highland Mall’s next chapter takes shape. The college is proud to help bring new life to the area and increase educational opportunities.”

ACC’s long-term plan calls for transforming the Highland Mall site into a modern educational space and center for community and business partnerships. The first renovation at Highland Mall is the former J.C. Penney store, which will be used for instruction, with space dedicated to innovative learning concepts that create momentum for students to persist and complete. In particular, the Penney space will house the college’s math emporium, an open-lab model that allows students to move through developmental math curriculum at an individualized pace. The former Penney space is expected to open for the fall 2014 semester.

“The new vision for Highland Mall is a win-win – creating benefits for the college, local businesses, the city, and our residents,” says Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. “This project showcases the best of public-private partnerships and will no doubt serve as a model for future development.”

The Highland Mall site has many advantages, such as its central location, existing buildings, access from major roadways, proximity to public transportation (including a Capital MetroRail stop on Airport Boulevard), and extensive parking.

The college is working with RedLeaf Properties and the City of Austin’s Airport Boulevard initiative to further explore the opportunities presented by the Highland site. RedLeaf Properties retained the right to redevelop portions of the Highland Mall site not used by ACC – opening the door to future mixed-use development.

The college has launched a new webpage designed to keep the community informed on the latest developments at Highland Mall. Subscribe to updates and view the latest news at austincc.edu/highland.

posted in: ACC Highland Updates, ACC Homepage Announcements, ACC Newsroom, Current Students, Faculty and Staff News, Official ACC Press Releases


13 Responses to “ACC Takes Ownership of Highland Mall”

  1. Maggie K. says:

    The Highland Mall area was the site of the St. John’s Community, which was established by former African-American sharecroppers. They built homes there, and an orphanage for African American children was built in 1907. It was there until 1949. It would be nice if ACC acknowledged this vanished community. What a great history lesson!

  2. Robin says:

    Move everyone to the second floor. Section us all off. Now everyone is happy.

  3. Garnett David Damewood, Sr. says:

    I am former ACC non-graduate student that was first an employee then a student. From the ’70s I am so pleased that the Highland project has been realized. This is the next step, first using public schools at night. The use of relocated public schools, so as not to waste the unused space. Now coexisting in commercial enterprises to save unused space and even save businesses. What a wonderful progression.

  4. Simon Goff says:

    Coming from the UK I was never a huge fan of large shopping malls. Having moved to the area I visited Highland and thought it really needed to be put to better use. Starting at ACC last year I was really pleased to discover that our college had purchased the Highland site with plans of turning it into a place of learning, innovation and commercial use. I think this is a wonderful opportunity for students, local people and business’ alike. Good job.

  5. Fernando Sotelo says:

    Awesome! Great Job!

  6. Allen says:

    I hope the new renovations include new age innovations, decor, and green technology. Not doing so would be a shameful waste of this opportunity. Current ACC campuses are dull, some cold and stony, others sterile.

    Use all student resources possible; culinary as previously mentioned, interior design, construction, public relations, merchandising, business, information technology, etc. It would be an awesome learning experience and cut costs.

    Step it up!

  7. Tina Lake says:

    Sauced is excellent. Hope mall traffic improves for all the food court guys.

  8. Joshua W. Scott says:

    Kathy,

    You aren’t the only ACC culinary student with an eye on the Highland Food court:
    http://www.austincc.edu/newsroom/index.php/2012/02/24/two-alumni-launch-pizza-endeavor-in-highland-mall/

    How exciting would it be for our culinary arts students to run a storefront alongside working businesses?

  9. Travis Scott says:

    Doctor Rhodes and his staff have done a great job since he became president, good job guys.

  10. George says:

    ACC is doing the City of Austin as well as the property owner a favor in taking possession of what’s left of Highland Mall. For whatever reasons, retail shopping centers have become obsolete–and in becoming obsolete, have attracted crime and lower property values. Possibly this will serve as an example for other unused retail entities elsewhere and some good can come of this.

  11. Kathy Psencik says:

    I would love to see the culinary department expand and use the food court as part of their classroom. During the Spring semester I was part of the Bakery Operations class. We had a bake sale 3 Thursdays in April and May at the Eastview Campus and it was a great success. I enjoyed the challenges it brought and the staff and students enjoyed what we made. I think expanding into a food court environment will give the students a real world experience and would expose what ACC has to offer to other students and shoppers in the mall.

  12. Joshua W. Scott says:

    Well now that the 2070 restriction is out of the way, I hope however ACC expands into the retail space preserves some commerce, especially in the food court. If Sauced and La Chapparita are any indication then the presumably lower than average rents are attracting food innovators that should be encouraged to thrive. Come Fall 2014, the Highland Campus will already have the best on campus food court.

  13. Phil says:

    Congrats ACC! Finish this project ASAP!