ACC begins work on Highland Phase II

Mall closes to make way for region’s first Workforce Innovation Center

On April 30 Highland Mall will close to the public, allowing Austin Community College (ACC) to begin pre-construction and abatement work that will transform the 44-year-old building into a regional workforce center.

Supported by $152 million in voter-approved bond funding, Phase II of the Highland redevelopment comprises of 415,000 square feet and will expand campus capacity to an estimated 13,000 students.

Courtesy: O’Connell Robertson; Pfeiffer Partners

“What’s happening at Highland is a first in the nation. This is more than building a state-of-the-art facility— it’s about building a community of strong partnerships,” says Dr. Richard Rhodes, ACC president/CEO. “What’s happening here will expand learning and training opportunities and provide real-world experiences that benefit both students and area employers.”

Planned renovations will support training programs for high-demand careers in Central Texas.

“Central Texas had 41,000 unfilled jobs in March. Up to 20 percent require an associate degree,” says Drew Scheberle, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce senior vice president of Federal/State Advocacy and Education/Talent Development. “Phase II will help local folks train for local, skilled, and good-paying jobs, reduce poverty, and further establish this region as the best place to grow a company.”

Phase II timeline

Before design and construction begins, the building must undergo abatement to remove hazardous materials – standard procedure in older structures – and its roof will be replaced. Once pre-construction work and abatement is completed, construction will take approximately two years.

Highland Aerial

Courtesy: Elizabeth Day

“This is good for our community,” says Alim Mohammed, a Highland Mall tenant for more than 20 years. “When I opened my restaurant in the food court, the mall was a busy place. Over the years, stores started to abandon the mall. The crowds disappeared. I worked hard every day just to survive. This will renew the neighborhood.”

Mohammed is among fewer than a dozen remaining mall tenants who remain at Highland and will be moving May 15.

“I am optimistic about what’s next,” says Mohammed. “I want to do what’s good for the students and for the community. There are wonderful opportunities ahead.”

Phase II highlights

Highland Campus Phase II will support new competency-based and accelerated learning opportunities, internships and real-world experience, and cluster programming.

Phase II will feature:

  • Creative Digital Media Center (approx. 155,000 gross square feet)

A new creative media center will prepare students for jobs in the information technology and creative sectors – two critical components of the regional economy that increasingly are intertwined.

  • Health Sciences/STEM Regional Simulation Center (approx. 27,000 gross square feet)

With the aging population nationwide and the new Dell Medical School locally, the demand for nurses and other healthcare workers is expected to grow.

  • Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management (approx. 25,000 gross square feet)

By tripling its space for culinary arts instruction, ACC will be able to train more students faster for jobs in the food service industry – considered by some to be as vital to the local economy as the creative sector.

  • Continuing Education (approx. 14,300 gross square feet)

ACC’s CE Division will have a significant presence at Highland Campus with spaces and labs to support expanded offerings in healthcare, culinary, cosmetology, and massage therapy.

  • Regional Workforce Center (approx. 41,400 gross square feet)

A Regional Workforce Center will feature flexible space that can be quickly modified to provide customized training and/or manufacturing space for specific local job market needs.

Follow the progress of the Phase II renovations on the bond construction update website.

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