Austin
3:53 pm
Wed February 8, 2012

ACC Picks Architect for Highland Mall

Austin Community College has selected an architectural firm for its redevelopment of Highland Mall.

At their meeting this week, the ACC Board of Trustees selected Austin-based BGK Architects to serve as the architectural and engineering team to oversee renovation of the former J.C. Penny’s store at the moribund mall. ACC plans on using the site as an educational space.

BGK Architects is no stranger to civic initiatives: they’ve previously worked on the Palmer Events Center, the Austin Convention Center Parking Garage, and more.

ACC has steadily acquired nearly all of the land encompassing the largely-vacant Highland Mall. It owns the stores of former anchor tenants Macy's and one of Dillard's two stores, plus the land underneath the mall itself; the remaining mall structures are locked into a lease with their operator through 2070.  An ACC press release notes "existing mall businesses will continue operations according to the terms of their subleases with the ground tenant."

The re-purposing of Highland Mall is not entirely unique. The New York Times recently took a look at how municipalities are dealing with the phenomenon of dead retail space:

Malls, over the last 50 years, have gone from the community center in some cities to a relic of the way people once wanted to shop. While malls have faced problems in the past, the Internet is now pulling even more sales away from them. And as retailers crawl out of the worst recession since the advent of malls, many are realizing they are overbuilt and are closing locations at a fast clip.

The result is near-record vacancy rates at malls of all kinds, both the big enclosed ones and the sprawling strips.