HIGHLAND MALL
Airport Boulevard and East Koenig Lane
Austin, Texas

The first shopping mall in the Lone Star State capital opened for business in 1963. Open-air in configuration, HANCOCK CENTER encompassed 500,000 leasable square feet and was anchored by Sears and Dillard's.

HIGHLAND MALL, Austin's second mall-type center, was developed by Maryland's Rouse Company. The fully-enclosed center was built on an 81 acre plot, located 5 miles northeast of the central city. The site was adjacent to the intersection of the Interstate 35 / Interregional Highway and US 290 Freeway.

The bi-level complex encompassed approximately 749,800 leasable square feet and housed over eighty stores and services. It was originally anchored by a 2-level (233,600 square foot) J.C. Penney, 2-level (80,000 square foot), Austin-based Scarbrough's and 4-level (191,200 square foot) San Antonio-based Joske's.

An official grand opening ceremony was held August 4, 1971. In attendance were Williard Rouse (Vice-chairman of the Rouse Company), Governor Preston Smith (D), Roy Butler (Mayor of Austin), Margaret Scarbrough Wilson (President of Scarbrough's) and Pat Segner (President of Joske's).

Charter mall tenants included Luby's Cafeteria, Spencer Gifts, Jarman Shoes, Kay Jewelers, The Gap and Florsheim Shoes. The General Cinema Corporation Highland Mall Cinema I & II was built as a northeast parking area outparcel. The venue showed its first features on November 21, 1973.

A bi-level East Wing and 2-level (213,800 square foot), Houston-based Foley's were added in 1978-1979. With this expansion, the shopping hub encompassed approximately 1,082,000 leasable square feet and housed over one hundred and thirty inline stores.

Competing shopping malls included the aforementioned HANCOCK CENTER {1.6 miles south, in Austin}, NORTHCROSS MALL (1975) {1.9 miles northwest, in Austin} and WESTGATE MALL (1972-1997) {8 miles southwest, also in Austin}.

BARTON CREEK SQUARE {7 miles southwest, in Austin} was dedicated in 1981. This shopping hub had the size and commercial clout to put the hurt on the 11-year-old HIGHLAND. Another northside retail rival, LAKELINE MALL {11 miles northwest, in Austin}, was completed in 1995.

As a keeping up measure, HIGHLAND MALL had been given a full-scale renovation in the mid-1980s, which included the installation of new fountains, skylights, landscaping and a 12-bay Food Court. This refurbishment brought the mall up-to-date for a time. It was eventually eclipsed by BARTON CREEK SQUARE, which had been expanded to over 1,400,000 leasable square feet.

A second theatrical venue was built in the mall's periphery. The General Cinema Corporation Highland 10 was developed on a parcel located .3 mile northeast of the shopping complex. This multiplex movie house made its debut on December 16, 1988.

The first anchor alteration at HIGHLAND MALL had occurred in April 1987, when Joske's stores were acquired -and rebranded- by Dillard's. Likewise, two stores in the Scarbrough's chain were bought by Dillard's, including the location at HIGHLAND MALL. On February 24, 1992, the former Joske's re-opened as a Dillard's Women's. Scarbrough's had been reconfigured as a Dillard's Men's & Children's store.

In 2004, Chicago-based General Growth Properties acquired the holdings of The Rouse Company, which owned a fifty percent share of HIGHLAND MALL. Ownership of the shopping center consisted of a joint venture with Indianapolis' Simon Property Group. Simon had acquired their share in the mall when they bought the portfolio of New York City-based Corporate Property Investors in September 1998.

HIGHLAND MALL suffered several major setbacks early in the 21st century. J.C. Penney closed their store in September 2006, just as Macy's was rebranding Foley's. A fourth retail rival, THE DOMAIN {4.6 miles northwest, in Austin}, was officially dedicated in March 2007. The Dillard's Men's store at HIGHLAND MALL went dark in May 2009.

Dillard's had announced earlier in the year that they were planning to close both of their HIGHLAND MALL stores. Nasty litigation between the Little Rock retailer and mall owners ensued. In the interim, a Dillard's Clearance Center was established in the Dillard's Women's space.

The court case was eventually settled; the Dillard's Clearance Center closed for good May 31, 2011. Macy's had been shuttered in the previous March. With the demise of the Dillard's Clearance Center, HIGHLAND MALL had no operational anchors.

In the meantime, the mall owners had defaulted on their loan. The lender, Wells Fargo Bank, assumed ownership. In mid-2010, they enlisted Chicago-based Jones, Lang, LaSalle to manage the property. The mall would be sold in four increments, with the buyer being a joint venture of the Austin-based Redleaf Properties, Limited Liability Company and Austin Community College District.

The Dillard's Women's / Clearance Center was acquired in May 2010, with the Macy's structure being bought in December of the same year. J.C. Penney, vacant for nearly 5 years, was sold in August 2011, with the remainder of the mall coming under Austin Community College ownership in August 2012.

HIGHLAND MALL closed for good on April 29, 2015. By this time, a Phase 1 ACC Highland facility had been completed. The old J.C. Penney had been reconfigured as Building 1000. This contained departments such as the ACCelerator Learning Lab, Library & Media Center, a Cafe' and District Police precinct. Building 1000 opened on August 13, 2014.

Building 4000, which encompassed the mall's East Wing section, was dedicated in September 2017. This portion of the ACC Highland campus housed various Art Department components, such as drawing, dance and ceramics studios and classrooms. There was also a Biosciences simulator and Veterans Resources Center.

Construction on the Phase 2 mall-to-college conversion commenced in October 2017. The central shopping center section, including the old Scarbrough's / Dillard's Men's, is being reconfigured as a Health Sciences simulator, art gallery, Culinary Arts center and restaurant and facilities devoted to Computer Science and Information Technology, Visual Communication and Architecture and Engineering.

The old Joske's / Dillard's Women's building has been stripped down to its steel framework. Rackspace, a San Antonio-based tech firm, had planned to renovate the structure, but backed out of the plan in February 2017. The mall's old Foley's / Macy's structure will be repurposed, in some capacity, in the near future.

Sources:

The Statesman
www.simon.com
www.ggp.com (General Growth Properties)
Austin Business Journal
https://www.capmetro.org
http://southernretail.blogspot.com
http://kut.org (KUT radio)
http://www.austincc.edu (Austin Community College District)
"Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority" article on Wikipedia
"Foley's" article on Wikipedia