Highland Mall

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Austin Community College Highland Mall
Location Austin, Texas, USA
Opening date 1971[1]
Management General Growth Properties (retail space only)[2]
Owner Austin Community College District
No. of stores and services 130+
No. of anchor tenants none (all vacant)
Total retail floor area 575,334 sq. ft.
No. of floors 2
Website HighlandMall.com

Austin Community College Highland Mall, is a shopping mall located in north Austin, Texas, on Airport Boulevard west of I-35 and north of US Route 290. Opened in 1971, Highland Mall was Austin's first suburban shopping mall.[1] Highland Mall was jointly owned by General Growth and Simon Property Group until 2011. Austin Community College began acquiring the surrounding land in 2010, assumed ownership of the last parcel it did not already control in August 2011.[3]


  • Vacant #1 - The former Joske's location at the south end of the mall when it purchased the entire Joske's chain by Dillard's in 1987.[4] Dillard's closed in May 2011.
  • Vacant #2 - JCPenney, an original tenant when the mall opened in 1971, closed its anchor store in Highland Mall on September 30, 2006.[5]
  • Vacant #3 - The Dillard's Men's store occupied the anchor store location originally held by Scarbroughs, once Austin's largest locally owned department store chain, from 1992-2009.[6]
  • Vacant #4 - The former Foley's anchor store was renamed Macy's in September 2006 as a result of Federated Department Stores' purchase of the May Company in 2005.[7] Macy's closed in March 2011.

In addition, the Greyhound bus terminal for Austin is located immediately southeast of the mall.

Mall in decline[edit]

Two of the mall's seven retail sectors are closed. Press reports describe the mall as "in decline" and say it is "likely to be demolished in 2010" to make way for a mixed-used development.[8]

On June 26, 2009, Yahoo! reported that it was one of "America's Most Endangered Malls":

While gleaming new stores have been springing up in some parts of Austin, this 38-year-old mall along I-35 has struggled to keep stores open--and avoid embarrassing controversies. Anchor JCPenney left in 2006, and this year Dillard's sued the mall's owners, claiming they let the mall become a "ghost town." The owners countersued, claiming that the suit is part of a scheme to help Dillard's get out of its lease early.

—Rick Newman, Yahoo! Finance[9]

As Austin has grown and expanded in the years since Highland Mall's opening, the demographics of the surrounding neighborhoods, once considered somewhat upscale, have moderated; the mall is the closest major regional shopping center serving the eastern portion of the city, which has traditionally been populated primarily by working-class African American residents. Highland Mall has been known in recent years for large crowds of visitors to the mall during the Texas Relays (a major track and field event held at the University of Texas at Austin), generating controversy and allegations of racial discrimination, or at the least, a less-than-welcoming attitude, on the part of mall management towards the visitors, mainly younger African Americans, many who visit from out-of-state.[10] During the 2009 Texas Relays, management decided to close the mall several hours earlier than normal, presumably in an attempt to control the crowds and promote safety, prompting protests from the local chapter of the NAACP and a possible boycott of the mall (all part of a larger controversy over perceived negative attitudes in Austin towards the Texas Relays and its largely younger Black fan base, which uses the Relays as a social event comparable to the controversial Freaknik events in Atlanta in the early 2000s).[11]

Charles Heimsath, president of an Austin-based real estate research firm, suggested that local malls such as Barton Creek Square and The Domain have siphoned off clientele from Highland Mall.[12] Despite Highland Mall's relative proximity and convenience to the University of Texas at Austin, many UT students elect to use these other shopping venues.

On June 3, 2009, the Austin Chronicle reported that Austin's professional soccer team, the Austin Aztex, were interested in using part of the site for a soccer stadium.[13] The site would have also included "pedestrian-friendly street frontage in a mixed-use design, rapid bus transit and rail right across the street, and structured parking." Grassroots Austin Stadium Supporters (GRASS) was a group that has formed to push for the stadium project.[14]

Acquisition by Austin Community College[edit]

On May 26, 2010, it was announced that Austin Community College (ACC) had purchased an 18.5 acre portion of the mall that had previously been leased to Dillard's for "future expansion".[15] Austin Community College would later purchase the entire Highland Mall Property.[16]

The mall's Macy's store closed on March 11, 2011, followed by Dillard's in May 2011 for last remaining major stores. Following the assemblage of the entire 80.8 acre parcel by ACC, plans were announced for redevelopment of the area into offices and campus facilities. The mall will remain open for the duration of the current tenants' leases.


  1. ^ a b Morton, Kate Miller (2008-07-27). "Congress Avenue redeveloped at a crawl; Some new stores opened or planned but challenges remain". Austin American-Statesman. 
  2. ^ "Properties: Highland Mall". General Growth Properties. Retrieved 2008-08-11. 
  3. ^ http://insideacc.austincc.edu/index.php/2011/08/04/acc-finalizes-purchase-of-j-c-penney-property-at-highland-mall/
  4. ^ Breyer, R. Michelle (1993-11-13). "Dillard location at Highland Mall finishes facelift". Austin American-Statesman. p. E1. 
  5. ^ Novak, Shonda. "J.C. Penney leaving Highland". Austin American-Statesman. p. F01. 
  6. ^ Tyson, Kim (1992-02-18). "Local landmark Scarbroughs selling 2 stores to Dillard". Austin American-Statesman. p. A1. 
  7. ^ Novak, Shonda (2006-09-08). "Macy's to open, grandly, in place of area Foley's". Austin American-Statesman. p. D01. 
  8. ^ Grimes, Andrea (2008-07-15). "Girl On Top: Scenes from a 'ghetto mall'". That Other Paper. 
  9. ^ Rick Newman, America's Most Endangered Malls Yahoo Finance June 26, 2009. Accessed June 29, 2009.[dead link]
  10. ^ Dunbar, Wells (2009-03-20). "Ghost Mall? Retail Bagpipes Sound a Dirge for Highland Mall". Austin Chronicle. 
  11. ^ Sanders, Joshunda (2009-04-12). "Activists, residents protest outside Highland Mall". Austin American-Statesman. 
  12. ^ http://impactnews.com/central-austin/news/8813-malls-face-redevelopment
  13. ^ Barbaro, Nick (2009-06-03). "Aztex Stadium/Aztex Station at Highland Mall". The Austin Chronicle. 
  14. ^ Grassroots Austin Stadium Supporters website
  15. ^ http://www.highlandmallisnotclosing.com/2010/05/26/austin-community-college-buys-land-at-highland-mall/
  16. ^ http://impactnews.com/central-austin/287-education/14290-higher-ed-acc-story

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 30°19′34″N 97°42′50″W / 30.326°N 97.714°W / 30.326; -97.714