ACC Finalizes Purchase of J.C. Penney Property at Highland Mall

College owns 100 percent of mall land and three former anchor store buildings

The Austin Community College District closed on the purchase of the final tract of land at Highland Mall August 4, 2011. The college purchased the former J.C. Penney building and surrounding parking lot for $15.7 million, including closing costs and fees. ACC announced in early June it was under contract for the property.

“Highland Mall is a treasured part of Austin’s history, and we are thrilled to be part of its transformation,” says Dr. Stephen B. Kinslow, ACC president/CEO. “It is exciting to close this deal and continue to move forward with planning for the site.”

This acquisition includes approximately 17.3 acres of land and more than 225,000 square feet of space in a two-story building and a smaller retail site located directly along Airport Boulevard. ACC now owns 100 percent of the land at Highland Mall (approximately 80.8 acres) and the three stand-alone anchor buildings (more than 642,000 square feet).

There is no impact on existing mall operations. The core of the mall remains subject to a ground lease, and it is anticipated mall businesses will continue operations according to the terms of their sub-leases with the ground tenant. After the expiration of the ground lease, ACC will develop that property for college purposes.

The college’s Highland Mall acquisition history includes:

  • May 2010: Closed on Dillard’s women’s store property; 18.5 acres and 194,000 square-foot building. $4.71 million, including costs and fees.
  • December 2010:Â Closed on Macy’s property; 12.8 acres and 223,000 square-foot building. $5.7 million, including costs and fees.
  • May 2011: Closed on land under the core of the mall; 32.2 acres. Buildings on this land are subject to a ground lease through 2070 with the company operating the mall. It is anticipated existing mall businesses will continue operations according to the terms of their subleases with the ground tenant. $14.8 million, including costs and fees.
  • August 2011: Closed on the J.C. Penney property; 17.3 acres and two buildings totaling more than 225,000 square feet. The second building in the J.C. Penney transaction is a strip center, and the businesses will continue to operate per their lease terms (leases run approximately five more years). $15.7 million, including costs and fees.

ACC’s intentions for Highland Mall include additional instructional space, consolidation of administration, a Continuing Education center, a convocation center, space for nonprofit affiliates, a conference center, and a professional development center. The site has many advantages, such as access from major roadways, proximity to public transportation (including a new Capital MetroRail stop on Airport Boulevard), and ample parking.

The college is currently growing by some 4,000 students a year, with a record 45,056 credit students enrolled in spring 2011. The Master Plan calls for ACC to accommodate enrollment growth through expansions of existing campuses and new construction.

ACC has initiated planning for specific use of the anchor store space and expects to begin renovation work in the next three years. The immediate priorities are additional instructional space and consolidation of administration. The college will engage the community as it further develops long-term plans for the Highland Mall site.

In addition, ACC is finalizing plans for the construction of new campuses in Elgin and north Hays County.

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