Jump to content

Highland Mall

Coordinates: 30°19′34″N 97°42′50″W / 30.326°N 97.714°W / 30.326; -97.714
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Highland Mall
LocationAustin, Texas, United States
Coordinates30°19′34″N 97°42′50″W / 30.326°N 97.714°W / 30.326; -97.714
Opening dateAugust 4, 1971; 52 years ago (1971-08-04)[1]
Closing dateApril 30, 2015; 9 years ago (2015-04-30)
ManagementBrookfield Properties (retail space only)
OwnerAustin Community College District
No. of stores and services130+
No. of anchor tenants0 (space for 4)
Total retail floor area575,334 sq ft (53,450.3 m2)
No. of floors2 (4 in former Dillard's Womens)
Public transit access
Highland station

Highland Mall was a shopping mall located in north Austin, Texas, United States, 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. On April 29, 2015, Highland Mall officially closed its doors;[2] the space has since been repurposed primarily as a campus for Austin Community College.


The Highland Mall opened on August 4, 1971, developed by Austin Malls Inc., a subsidiary of the Rouse Company.[3] Prior to the construction of the mall, the land was originally home to the St. John's Industrial Institute and Home for Negro Orphans, which burned down in the 1940s.[4]

The mall, which was Austin's first enclosed mall, was originally anchored by JCPenney, Austin-based Scarbrough's, and San Antonio-based Joske's.[5] In 1987, Joske's was acquired by Dillard's; the store received a complete renovation in 1993. In 1992, Dillard's opened a second store in the mall in the space that formerly housed Scarbrough's.[6]

Mall in decline[edit]

The vacant food court in 2014

By 2008, two of the mall's seven retail sectors were closed. Press reports described the mall as "in decline" and that the mall was "likely to be demolished in 2010" to make way for a mixed-used development.[7]

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[8]

As Austin grew and expanded in the years since Highland Mall's opening, the demographics of the surrounding neighborhoods, once considered somewhat upscale, remained stagnant; 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 had developed a reputation 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.[9] 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).[10]

Charles Heimsath, president of an Austin-based real estate research firm, suggested that local malls such as Barton Creek Square and The Domain siphoned off clientele from Highland Mall.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

On September 1, 2012, the mall's owners filed for bankruptcy.[14]

On April 30, 2015, Highland Mall officially closed after 44 business years.

Acquisition by ACC[edit]

The ACCelerator lab at ACC Highland Campus, located in the former JCPenney space

In 2012, Austin Community College purchased Highland Mall to redevelop the site as a regional education center. The first phase of ACC's Highland Campus opened in Fall 2014. The first phase includes classrooms, labs, study areas, library and media center, student commons, and ACCelerator, a 600-station learning lab for individualized instruction through technology.[15][16]

Preparation is underway for additional redevelopment at Highland Mall. Plans call for a digital and creative media cluster, expanded information technology programs, culinary and hospitality center, professional incubator space, an advanced manufacturing center, workforce innovation center, and regional health sciences center with simulator lab.[17]

In 2017, Rackspace announced plans to open an office in the former Dillard's anchor space, but plans were shelved when the company was acquired by an outside investor.[18] In 2018, it was announced that the former Dillard's store would be remodeled into a two-level television studio that will house Austin PBS affiliate KLRU as well as ACC's television station.[19]

Over the long term, space not used by the college at the Highland Mall site will be available for private mixed-use development.[20] Various mixed-use apartment and retail buildings have opened in the mall's former parking lot; the east side of the parking lot has been repurposed in to an urban park called "St. John's Encampment Commons", referencing the former African-American Baptist encampment that took place on the site.[4]


  • Joske's/Dillard's Women/KLRU Studios - 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.[6] Dillard's closed in May 2009.
  • JCPenney/ACC Building 1000 - JCPenney, an original tenant when the mall opened in 1971, closed its anchor store in Highland Mall on September 30, 2006.[21]
  • Scarbrough's/Dillard's Men - The Dillard's Men's store occupied the anchor store location originally held by Scarbrough's, once Austin's largest locally owned department store chain, from 1992 to 2011.[22]
  • Foley's/Macy's - 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.[23] Macy's closed in March 2011.



  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. ^ "Highland Mall closes for good Thursday night". 30 April 2015.
  3. ^ Lee, Nell (February 13, 1971). "Austin's Highland Mall to Open Aug. 4". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Pritchard, Caleb (July 19, 2017). "The Plan to Turn Highland Mall Into a Neighborhood". Austin Monthly. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  5. ^ "Joske's of Texas Opens Here Today". The Austin American. August 4, 1971. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  6. ^ a b Breyer, R. Michelle (1993-11-13). "Dillard location at Highland Mall finishes facelift". Austin American-Statesman. p. E1.
  7. ^ Grimes, Andrea (2008-07-15). "Girl On Top: Scenes from a 'ghetto mall'". That Other Paper.
  8. ^ Rick Newman, America's Most Endangered Malls Yahoo Finance June 26, 2009. Accessed June 29, 2009. Archived June 29, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Dunbar, Wells (2009-03-20). "Ghost Mall? Retail Bagpipes Sound a Dirge for Highland Mall". Austin Chronicle.
  10. ^ Sanders, Joshunda (2009-04-12). "Activists, residents protest outside Highland Mall". Austin American-Statesman.
  11. ^ Walmart under construction at Northcross; ACC buys 194,000 square feet in Highland Mall at Dillard's siteArchived July 1, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Barbaro, Nick (2009-06-03). "Aztex Stadium/Aztex Station at Highland Mall". The Austin Chronicle.
  13. ^ "Grassroots Austin Stadium Supporters website". Archived from the original on 2009-06-14. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
  14. ^ "Owner of Highland Mall files for bankruptcy". Austin-American Statesman. September 1, 2012. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  15. ^ Austin Community College at the Highland CampusArchived May 18, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Austin Community College debuts Highland Campus
  17. ^ "ACC begins work on Highland Phase II | ACC Newsroom".
  18. ^ "Rackspace moving 570 employees to ACC's Highland Mall campus - Austin Business Journal". Archived from the original on 2014-07-09.
  19. ^ "ACC and KLRU launch new partnership at ACC Highland". KLRU. June 7, 2018. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  20. ^ "Plans for ACC's Highland Mall campus include apartments, retail". Archived from the original on 2015-05-18. Retrieved 2015-05-07.
  21. ^ Novak, Shonda. "J.C. Penney leaving Highland". Austin American-Statesman. p. F01.
  22. ^ Tyson, Kim (1992-02-18). "Local landmark Scarbroughs selling 2 stores to Dillard". Austin American-Statesman. p. A1.
  23. ^ Novak, Shonda (2006-09-08). "Macy's to open, grandly, in place of area Foley's". Austin American-Statesman. p. D01.

External links[edit]