‘From Bunker to Brilliance:’ ACC Highland Campus Progresses Toward August Opening

Austin Community College recently pulled back the curtain on the renovations that are transforming the former Highland mall into a state-of-the-art learning facility.

The college marked the building’s “dry-in,” an important construction milestone that signals remaining work will proceed rapidly toward the campus’ grand opening for the fall semester.

Windows illuminate the formerly closed-in space.

“From bunker to brilliance – that’s what we’re talking about,” said ACC President/CEO Dr. Richard Rhodes. “ACC Highland is a project unlike any other in the nation. The campus will house programs and services that increase student success and serve as a true pride point –not just for the college, but for Central Texas.”

At the Feb. 26 dry-in ceremony, State Sen. Kirk Watson joined college leaders in expressing gratitude to those who are creating an epicenter for education, imagination, innovation, and creativity.

“More people in our community are going to have access to an education that helps them live their dreams,” he said. “I think we can call this place a dream zone – a place where dreams are going to be fulfilled because of ACC.”

When the new campus opens in August 2014, the college will have completed just one phase of a larger project to convert and transform the mall and surrounding area into a regional center of educational excellence and mixed-use development.

Phase I: ACC Highland Campus

The first phase of the redevelopment project centers on the ACC Highland Campus, which will offer a full schedule of core classes, all under one roof, in one central location. The college’s 11th campus will feature:

  • The nation’s largest lab for interactive learning with 600+ computer workstations
  • An open main street design with natural lighting, computer bars, large classrooms, science labs, student services areas, a library, study areas, and a marketplace
  • 214,000 square feet of renovated space (former JC Penney store)
  • 6,200 student capacity
  • Space for community partners, such as Capital IDEA

    A center stairway extending over a coffee bar will provide a central gathering spot.

Envisioning the future of ACC Highland

Future phases of the Highland project will support educational programs, along with advanced career training and community partnerships. Additional renovations would require funding through capital bonds and may be included in a proposed November bond election.

Phase II: ACC Highland complex

The second phase of the Highland project is designed to accelerate pathways to high demand fields and foster strong community partnerships. ACC Highland planning remains ongoing and will be guided by the college’s Academic Master Plan, an adaptable blueprint for growth that addresses the education and workforce needs of Central Texas. ACC Highland will house programs and partnerships to increase STEM access and success. Possibilities include:

  • 1.2 million square feet
  • Regional Workforce Research and Development Center
  • Facilities for creative digital media arts (gaming technology, visual arts, radio-television-film, computer programming, photography); culinary arts, hospitality, and tourism center; health sciences and STEM simulator lab
  • Continuing Education (CE) classroom space
  • Professional incubator space
  • Convocation and performance space
  • Public/private partnership training space
  • Direct access to MetroRail station and bus stop

Phase III: Â Mix-use Redevelopment

The Highland project’s third phase focuses on mixed-use development in partnership with RedLeaf Properties:

  • Center for community and business partnerships
  • 1,200+ residential units
  • 150,000 square feet of retail space
  • 800,000 square feet of office space
  • 200+ hotel rooms
  • 1,000+ new trees, with acres of open space

View the photos below for a sneak peek at the ACC Highland Campus construction project.

Visit the Future of ACC at Highland webpage for more information and links to local news coverage about the project.

View video of the renovations and of State Sen. Kirk Watson speaking at the dry-in ceremony.

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