Airport Boulevard to see more mixed-use development, campus improvements. Nearly two years after the closure of Highland Mall, nearby residents are seeing their vision for the Airport Boulevard corridor begin to take shape.
“Highland, in some ways, was like the last affordable Central Austin neighborhood,” said Nick Pellicciotto, president of the Highland Neighborhood Association. Highland and Brentwood residents got together in 2004 to form a neighborhood plan which called for a Neighborhood Urban Center—a commercially dense, mixed-use development—at various Airport Boulevard intersections and at Highland Mall.
Highland and Brentwood residents got together in 2004 to form a neighborhood plan which called for a Neighborhood Urban Center—a commercially dense, mixed-use development—at various Airport Boulevard intersections and at Highland Mall.
Home prices in the Highland area have jumped 78.2 percent in the past five years, according to data from the Austin Board of Realtors. The current median price sits at $320,000, compared to the $355,000 average Austin home. ABoR President Brandy Guthrie attributes the price increase to the redevelopment of Highland Mall into an Austin Community College campus, new mixed-use developments, access to multiple modes of transportation and the neighborhood’s proximity to downtown.
“Our neighborhood association, and almost everybody I know in the neighborhood, is pro-development,” Pellicciotto said.
‘Do something about Highland Mall’
RedLeaf Properties Principal Matt Whelan remembers when the former Highland Mall was booming.
“It was a source of vitality, a source of pride, a source of activity,” the Austin native said.
But competition from Lakeline Mall, Barton Creek Mall and the Domain slowly caused Highland Mall—and its neighboring retail and dining establishments—to fail, he said.
“As much as 15 years ago or more, people were coming to the city, to elected officials, and saying, ‘Can you please do something about Highland Mall?’ Whelan said.
In 2009, Whelan formed RedLeaf Properties and partnered with ACC to help make the residents’ vision a reality.
Timeline: Highland area through the decadesWhat’s new
RedLeaf’s first mixed-use development, featuring about 300 residential units, a parking garage and about 5,000 square feet of retail and dining, will open this spring next to ACC Highland. A new park is slated to be completed by summer, with walking trails and a community garden.
While the development isn’t catering specifically to the ACC community, Whelan said he and the college system hope students, faculty and staff spend time there in some capacity.
“We want [the development] to be accessible and attractive, and we’re trying to serve the broader Austin [area],” he said.
Surrounding shopping centers such as The Linc—formerly called Lincoln Village—and The Crescent—previously Highland Village—are also seeing growth, with restaurants such as Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden opening in June and grocery stores such as 99 Ranch Market opening later this year.
Meanwhile, ACC Highland continues its expansion adding a new bioscience incubator, new art studio and classroom space, new faculty offices and a regional workforce innovation complex that includes a STEM simulator lab, a culinary arts and hospitality center, a student-run restaurant, a digital creative media center, a performing arts center and a professional business incubator in the next three years.