Story by Jonathan Gonzales
Edited by Pete Ramirez
Austin Community College’s Rio Grande campus reopened for the fall 2021 semester in a limited capacity after undergoing renovations that began four years ago during the fall of 2017.
The building that makes up ACC’s Rio Grande Campus has been around for more than 100 years and with an injection of $49 million worth of renovations, has been reconfigured into a high-tech home for higher learning.
The upgraded building sits on a rectangular block in downtown Austin off of Rio Grande Street and 12th Street now boasts 60 classrooms and an ACCelerator similar to the one at ACC’s Highland campus.
An interesting challenge that the architects and contractors tasked with renovating the building had to overcome was what to do with the two open-air courtyards that sit in the middle of the structure. They decided to use a hybrid Teflon material to create tent domes over the courtyards and add air conditioning which created two beautiful, large spaces inside of the building.
The Rio Grande building first opened in 1916 and served as Allan Junior High. In 1925, the building became the home of Austin High School, and later in 1975, it became another of Austin Community College’s campuses.
After hearing about the upgrades planned for the campus, Dr. Roy Casagranda, an ACC professor in the government/history department, was ecstatic. Dr. Casagranda has been teaching for 20 years and has seen many changes come to the school.
When Casagranda took his first steps into the campus to check on the status of the redesign, he said he was “speechless.” The interior was exquisite and completely new.
Casagranda loved the new library, the well-equipped labs and the spacious pristine classrooms. Casagranda’s favorite thing about the entire renovation was the exterior which now includes multiple areas where students and faculty can use to study and lounge. According to Casagranda, the campus faculty has plans to create a garden outside and display art from students within the halls of the school.
The Rio Grande campus is open from 7 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday and closed on Saturday and Sunday. Students can park in the parking garage located one block to the west of the Rio Grande campus by the No-Comply skate shop. The ACC Bookstore is not available at this campus yet and the ACCelerator is not yet ready for students to use either.
As construction nears completion in 2023, the campus will continue to provide many opportunities for students to gain their education. It has brought joy to Austin-area students and faculty for more than 100 years and it’s now well prepared to continue to serve the community for another 100 years.