Plans to remake the vast, empty parking lots surrounding the former Highland Mall into a bustling mixed-use project will start to take shape this fall when work begins on 300 new apartments.
It’s the first of many projects envisioned for the site.
The apartment complex will be on the south side of the property, which is now owned by Austin Community College. It should be complete by 2017, according to ACC and its development partner, RedLeaf Properties.
Since taking over the mall, ACC has made a number of improvements, including transforming an old JCPenney site into classrooms and labs. Rackspace Hosting said last year it would move more than 500 employees into the former Dillard’s women’s store at the site.
The mall’s last few remaining retail tenants – a handful of small shops and restaurants – recently moved out to make way for future phases of construction.
“We watched as the mall spiraled into decline,” said Vic Villarreal, chair of ACC’s board of trustees. “We had a vision to restore Highland and reinvent this community. It’s exciting to see this next phase of the redevelopment project taking shape with the community and our partners.”
Greystar Real Estate Partners, a South Carolina developer, has been selected to build the apartments. Greystar recently redeveloped the former Lamar Plaza shopping center in South Austin, turning it into Lamar Union, a mixed-use project with 443 apartments and 85,000 square feet of retail space.
“We looked at a number of multifamily developers and chose Greystar because they’re smart, disciplined and open to new ideas,” RedLeaf principal Matt Whelan said. “Greystar has achieved success developing timeless yet practical communities that appeal to today’s renter. They’ve shown they understand and appreciate the overall Highland plan, and the design we’ve envisioned will be complementary to the entire redevelopment.”
Michael Hsu Office of Architecture, an Austin-based firm, handled the Lamar Union project and was picked to design the new apartments at the Highland redevelopment site, as well.
The buildings will be four and five stories tall, and will feature about 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space aimed at locally owned businesses. The retail space will help camouflage a parking garage for residents, Greystar said.
Amenities will include a clubhouse with a co-working space, bike storage rooms and a host of eco-friendly features, such as instant hot water and energy-efficient appliances and windows.
“We’re proud to be a part of Highland’s rebirth to bring future residents a high-quality living experience,” said Derek Brown, Greystar’s managing director. “Being at Highland means that in addition to a central, accessible location we will be able to offer nearby transit via MetroRail and be part of a thoughtfully planned project that will include new open spaces, a walkable environment and proximity to a growing list of neighborhood food and entertainment destinations.”