AUSTIN (KXAN) - Austin Community College now owns all of Highland Mall after taking over the ground lease for the core building and former movie theater.
At a cost of about $1.5 million, ACC acquired the ground lease for the core mall building from LNR Property.
With the final steps in place, ACC will move forward with it's plans to revitalize the site. For now, all business is expected to continue and the college plans to work with the tenants and community to provide updates as they develop.
The Highland Mall website lists over 50 retail stores and restaurants currently open. Jones Lang LaSalle will continue to manage the property.
ACC's long-term plan calls for transforming the Highland Mall site into a modern educational space and center for community and business partnerships.
"This is exciting news for the college and the community. With this acquisition, we can accelerate plans for the mall and go to work on our first Highland project – renovating the former J.C. Penney property," says Dr. Richard Rhodes, ACC president. "That vacant building has been dormant for some time. Now it will become a center for innovative learning and bring renewed energy to a very important part of Austin."
The first renovation at Highland Mall is the former J.C.Penney store, which will be used for instruction, with space dedicated to innovative learning concepts that create momentum for students to persist
In particular, the Penney space will house the college's "math emporium," an open-lab model that allows students to move through developmental math curriculum at an individualized pace. The former Penney space is expected to open for the fall 2014 semester.
ACC began buying up the mall back in May 2010, starting by buying the Dillard's space . Over the next two years they purchased the space's previously holding Macy's and J.C. Penny's leaving the mall with only one anchor store.
Another major purchase by the college in 2011 was for 32.2 acres parking surrounding Highland Mall for the price tag of $14.6 million.
The space will help ACC deal with growing pains from enrollment.
The college is working with RedLeaf Properties and the City of Austin's Airport Boulevard initiative to further explore the opportunities presented by the Highland site. RedLeaf Properties retained the right to redevelop portions of the Highland Mall site not used by ACC.
The college has launched a new webpage designed to keep the community informed on the latest developments at Highland Mall.
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