The debate over the future of Highland Mall
appears to have been settled. Austin Community College
has entered a contract to buy yet more of the dying shopping center. If the deal is finalized (expected by mid-May), the rapidly growing school will own 79% of Highland, ending a shopping era in Austin and ushering in a new educational one. The new purchase is 32.2 acres for $14.6 million; including previous purchases over the last year of the former Dillard's and Macy's spaces, ACC will now own 63.5 acres. The company currently operating the mall will make monthly payments to ACC until the lease expires, and then ACC will redevelop the property for college purposes. "ACC is experiencing tremendous growth, currently increasing by more than 4,000 students annually," said ACC president and CEO Stephen B. Kinslow
in a press release. "That's like adding an entire small college each year. With more than 45,000 credit students this semester, we already have great need to expand our infrastructure. These Highland acquisitions will play a key role in allowing us to continue meeting the vast educational and training needs of the region." Last year, some ACC faculty criticized the expansion, saying some teachers were getting shortchanged on raises while ACC threw down big money for new property (see "Booming in the Bust
," Aug. 27, 2010).