Joan Didion, a literary journalist, once wrote, “Enclosed shopping centers are the ultimate city in which no one lives but everyone consumes…With space for 10,000 cars, the mall and its city became a haven for commerce and the leisure lifestyle.”
Today, the enclosed mall is a vanishing breed, its decline is often chronicled by photographers and YouTubers. A couple years ago, BuzzFeed posted a list of nine dead malls showing post-apocalyptic images of lifeless, deteriorating, spaces. Aside from being the target of Ruin-Porn, self-storage and on-location filming, some properties are beginning to see a new life in astonishing ways.
The Urban Land Institute, a global nonprofit education and research institute, who provides leadership to “EVERY sector of the Real Estate Industry,” hosted discussions with design, development, and placemaking experts about ways they are reviving aging and abandoned mall sites.
What started as Austin’s first suburban shopping mall in 1971 has become Austin Community College’s newest addition, Highland Campus.
The Highland Campus will occupy the entire mall plus new buildings. The parking lots will be developed into a mixed-use community with 1,200 homes, 200 hotel rooms, and neighborhood-serving retail. The Highland campus is one of ten additional ACC campuses in the Austin area and will offer technology and health sciences education.
Ralph K.M. Haurwitz, of the American-Statesman, recently described the Highland Campus as having a “kind of post-industrial vibe, with stained concrete floors, exposed ductwork, soaring glass panels and slick wooden benches. It also has the biggest ceiling fan I’ve ever seen.”