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. 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}. In 1981, BARTON CREEK SQUARE {7 miles southwest, in Austin} came along, which 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 1987, which included the installation of new fountains, skylights and landscaping. This brought the mall up-to-date, but it was eventually eclipsed by BARTON CREEK SQUARE, especially after that mall was expanded to over 1,400,000 leasable square feet.

The first anchor alteration at HIGHLAND MALL 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 June 2010, they enlisted Chicago-based Jones, Lang, LaSalle to manage the property. The mall was then sold in four increments, with the buyer being a joint venture of the Austin-based Redleaf Properties, Limited Liability Company and Austin Community College.

HIGHLAND MALL closed for good on April 29, 2015. According to plan, the entirety of the old retail complex will be devoted to the ACC Highland Campus. The old J.C. Penney has been reconfigured as ACCelerator Lab. The remaining mall area will be be divided into classrooms and lab facilities. A luxury residential structure has also been built in the south parking area.

Sources:

The Statesman
www.simon.com
www.ggp.com (General Growth Properties)
Austin Business Journal
https://www.capmetro.org
"Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority" article on Wikipedia
"Foley's" article on Wikipedia