Highland Mall was 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. 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. On April 29, 2015, Highland Mall officially closed its doors.
Joske's/Dillard's Women - 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. Dillard's closed in May 2009.
JCPenney - JCPenney, an original tenant when the mall opened in 1971, closed its anchor store in Highland Mall on September 30, 2006.
Dillard's Men - 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 1992-2011.
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. Macy's closed in March 2011.
In addition, the Greyhound bus terminal for Austin is located immediately southeast of the mall.
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.
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.
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. 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).
The former JCPenney wing was known at one point as the Fun Zone.
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. 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. 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.
On April 30, 2015, Highland Mall officially closed after 44 business years.
Austin Community College purchased Highland Mall and is redeveloping the site as a regional education center. The first phase, ACC’s Highland Campus, opened in fall 2014. It includes classrooms, labs, study areas, library and media center, student commons, and ACCelerator, a 600-station learning lab for individualized instruction through technology.
Preparation is under way 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. ACC also is developing a partnership with Rackspace Hosting, provider of managed cloud hosting services, in which Rackspace will lease Highland space and provide internships and other opportunities for students.
Over the long term, space not used by the college at the Highland Mall site will be available for private mixed-use development.