March 27th, 2013 |
Dr. Rhodes and Board Chair Jeffrey Richard break down a wall to reveal the ACC Highland logo.
Something exciting started at Highland Mall on March 27 – the first phase of renovations by Austin Community College. Hundreds of people gathered outside the vacant J.C. Penney store, which will soon transform into a state-of-the-art learning environment, to celebrate the groundbreaking.
“We are breaking ground today on a project like no other, one that’s been many years in the making, and one that will touch everything we do,” said Dr. Richard Rhodes, ACC president/CEO. “This is something of a dream come true for us.”
The event brought together Highland neighbors, local businesses, elected leaders, and college faculty and staff. Many shared memories of Highland’s past while also looking to its next chapter as a center for innovative learning and community/business partnerships.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett spoke about the importance of the opening of Highland Mall, the first indoor shopping mall in the area, in the early 1970s. However, he said, the groundbreaking marked an even bigger accomplishment.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett speaks at the Highland groundbreaking.
“Our community has made amazing progress, and ACC has played a major role in that progress,” Doggett said. “It’s hard to imagine what Austin would look like without ACC.”
The former J.C. Penney store will house the college’s math emporium, an open lab
that will allow students to move through developmental math curriculum at an individualized pace. It is expected to be the largest math emporium in the country, accommodating some 600 students.
Phase I of the mall renovation will also include additional instructional areas, library, and student union, with capacity for 6,200 students in 200,000 square feet of space. It will open in fall 2014 and provide new opportunities for students like Miriam Gorbet.
“ACC has supported me through every step of my college education,” said Gorbet, who is working toward her nursing degree and shared her story during the groundbreaking. “As a mom, I love setting an example for my children and showing them that with hard work anything is possible.”
ACC Highland, phase I exterior (image by Elizabeth Day, courtesy BGK Architects)
The Numbers, the ACC Math Department’s Dixieland jazz band, provided entertainment. The event also featured multiple Highland-area businesses. Sauced, a restaurant that operates in the Highland Mall food court, served gourmet breakfast pizza; Kick Butt Coffee, adjacent to the mall on Airport Boulevard, provided coffee. Both are owned by ACC alums. House of Torment, another Highland Mall business, crafted a faux wall knocked down during the event to reveal the ACC Highland logo.
“ACC is a valued community partner that will bring many benefits to this area and help ensure it doesn’t suffer from the loss of retail but rather thrives as the result of new investment and new development opportunities,” said Lee Leffingwell, mayor of Austin.
The groundbreaking kicks off a larger vision for revitalization of the Highland area, which will include mixed-use development helmed by RedLeaf Properties.
“This is a redevelopment day. It’s a big day for ACC and for Central Texas,” said Dr. Rhodes. “To see this mall repurposed into a collaborative community that will have learning space, living space, retail space – this is exciting. It’s a project unlike any other in the nation.”
To stay informed of the latest developments at ACC Highland, subscribe to updates, and share fond memories of Highland Mall, visit austincc.edu/highland.
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