ACC Highland Mall breaks ground on Phase 2 of its development Thursday

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Austin Community College District celebrated the ground breaking of Phase 2 of its Highland Mall campus, which will include the construction of a creative digital media center, a culinary arts and hospitality center with a restaurant staffed by ACC students, and a bioscience incubator.

Supported by $152 million in voter-approved bond funding, this phase will expand the campus by more than 400,000 square feet and increase capacity by 5,000 students.

This phase is expected to last two years, with an approximate end date in late 2019 or early 2020, according to ACC spokesperson Jessica Vess.

“This ground breaking is about more than breaking down walls,” ACC President and CEO Richard Rhodes said at the event Thursday morning. “It’s breaking down walls and barriers for students of the future to achieve their dreams.”

A regional workforce research and development center will be built as part of this development phase, which Rhodes said will help ACC students better prepare themselves for middle-skill jobs and careers.

“ACC is truly one of the—if not the—greatest driver of economic development in this city,” Mayor Steve Adler said.

As part of the Master Community Workforce Plan that was introduced in June, the city of Austin is slated to create more than 60,000 middle-skill jobs in the next five years, many of which Adler said he hopes go to ACC graduates.

“Today, we are choosing school-to-work as an alternative to school-to-prison,” Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion said.

This phase of development, Travillion said, will help ACC students access quality jobs that offer a living wage and insurance benefits.

The land on which ACC Highland’s campus sits was purchased in 1906 by the St. John District Association, an African-American Baptist organization founded in Austin in 1867. The association built the St. John Orphan Home and School on the land.

“We believe that whatever happened to get ACC here—the good, the bad, the in, the out—we have to believe that all these things were in the direction of good,” said Rev. G.V. Clark of the St. John Regular Baptist District Association.

ACC’s educational mission aligns with the association’s original plan for the land, Dr. Clark said.

The St. John’s Encampment Commons, a 2.6-acre green space named in honor of the land’s former owners, will be developed as part of this phase.

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Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her reporting focuses include employment and economic development. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.
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