Thursday, September 10, 2015

Highland Mall Austin Texas; Closed April 30 2015

I have taken all of the my previous Highland Mall posts and combined them together for this huge post. Highland Mall closed on April 30, 2015 and will be completely gutted and renovated for re-use.

Highland Mall opened in August of 1971 and was considered to be the first major shopping mall in Austin. The mall was originally anchored by JCPenney, Joske's (Dillard's Women's store), Scarbrough's (Dillard's Men's store).The mall expanded in 1978 and added Foley's (Macy's) along with more mall space. The last major renovation occurred in 1987, and the mall only had slight modifications after that. The total mall space was over 1 million square feet on two floors. The mall was also used as a location in the Beavis and Butthead cartoon and video games under the name of Turbo Mall 2000. The mall really started to lose business after 2006 when JCPenney left the mall. When that store closed one wing of the mall died out with only a few stores remaining because there was no exterior entrance to that side of the mall. Dillard's closed their large 4 story location in 2009 and converted the second store into a clearance store which closed in May 2011 (see photos below for the second to last day of that store). Macy's closed in March 2011. Austin Community College purchased the entire mall property in pieces starting in May 2010 and completed the land acquisitions in August of 2012. With the closing of Highland Mall, the Austin metro area now only has 2 enclosed malls.

Here is my first set of photos taken in May 2009.
Here is what I wrote in May of 2009. Happy Memorial day! Pray for our troops! More stores have closed since our last visit and the mall was having an open house event to try to get spaces leased. At the two Dillard's stores the merchandise is starting to get thinner. The former JCPenney and labelscar; look closely on one photo and you will see the old signs from the JCPenney package pickup and optometrist. The photo below is an example of a recently closed store. For some reason the mall has covered up the front of the store but the logo is still visible. There are several stores that have closed and the mall only put up a partial covering instead of fully covering up the store. It looks like the mall has given up on boarding up closed stores since only a handful of closed stores have been covered up. A mall of recent controversy; this is Highland Mall. I do not have any information on this mall's history so maybe my readers can help me out. My family and I have visited this mall a few times since 2003, and this mall has rapidly emptied out recently. In 2003 the mall was nearly full and had several new and renovated stores. In the past year the mall has lost many tenants and Dillard's is closing their larger store. JCPenney closed in 2006 and Macy's and the smaller Dillard's will be the only anchor by the end of 2009. This mall still has a nearly full food court with a great selection. We visited this mall this past Sunday and the mall was very slow. The former JCPenney wing is nearly deserted once you pass the food court on the second story. The first floor of the former JCPenney wing is still surprisingly 50% full and has a train for the kids. The Dillard's south wing is about 50% occupied. The Macy's wing has only a handful of vacancies and had the most people shopping today as well. There are several water stained ceilings in the stores and mall corridors.

 Images from May 2010
Through the windows looking at the former Dillard's.
Here is what I wrote in May 2010. We visited Highland Mall this past weekend to give an update for the blog. The food court has lost five tenants, but there are still 9 tenants that serve food or snacks in the mall. In the recently closed Dillard's south wing; several new stores have opened up on both floors, but none are national chains. It is good to see the mall gaining tenants even with the loss of an anchor store. Macy's is still going strong and the Dillard's clearance center was doing brisk business as well. Unfortunately a few stores have left the mall, but the mall is working to rebound. Here is the outside of the closed Dillard's south. Dillard's has consolidated into the smaller store, but the smaller store is clearance only. Dillard's had two stores at the mall until last year. Dillard's south has closed, but the lights are still on for now.

Images from May 2011
Images through the glass of the former Macy's.
The second floor of the Dillard's clearance store.
Through the windows of the former Dillard's Women's store.
Through the windows of the former Macy's.
Another shot of the inside of the former Macy's.
This was the second to last day of business at the last remaining anchor store Dillard's.
A few shots of the interior of the final anchor at Highland.
A few more shots inside of the Dillard's.
Here is what I wrote in May 2011 Highland Mall is losing the last of the four anchors on May 22nd when the Dillards clearance center shuts down for good. Highland Mall may be nearing the end of its life as a retail center, and many stores have left since our last visit a year ago. The mall still has a few chain stores such as The Finish Line, Hot Topic, Victoria's Secret, Gamestop, and Radio Shack but without a department store anchor the mall is in big trouble. Austin Community College has purchased two former department store sites at the mall, so will the development become retail/ school/ housing under one roof? At this point Highland Mall still soldiers on. Leave your comments on some redevelopment ideas. The truck outside of the Dillard's is waiting to take away the remains of the Dillard's clearance center. This is the closed off second floor in the soon to be closed Dillard's clearance center. Here is a collection of shots taken on May 21 from the Dillard's that will close on May 22. There was a security guard nearby protecting the racks of $4.99 size XL Men's clothes that were left so I was unable to get good quality photos in the store. The mall entrance in between the two former Dillard's stores. This is one of the three mall entrances that will be left when the Dillard's clearance store closes today. The other two entrances are in the former Macy's wing on the second floor. The former Dillard's Women's store has not been covered up and you can see inside just like the Macy's below. The four story former Dillard's Women's store looms over the south part of the mall. The former JCPenney has seen better days. From the outside of the former Macy's/ Foley's, a Foley's labelscar. Macy's closed in March of 2011, the windows have not been covered up and you can see right into the store.

Images from September 2011
Macy's interior shots through the mall entrance glass.
Views of the Dillard's Women's store interior through the mall entrance glass.
The fountains were still running.
The 1st floor of the former Macy's looking through the mall windows.
Here is what the JCPenney looked like through an entrance door just before the renovations began.
Here is what I wrote in Sept 2011. Highland Mall appears to be winding down retail operations in the mall and more stores have closed since my last visit in May of this year. The food court restaurants may be the only outlets that are allowed to stay after the mall is converted into a college over the next five years. Austin community college purchased the mall in pieces and they are moving all of their operations into the former mall. The mall directory is updated, but has several stores listed in different categories that make the list look larger. The food court has one new restaurant; a pizza place that was reopened in the Villa Pizza spot. No cookies and ice cream here! In front of the former JCPenney, Champs is still open but is one of the last stores left in this section of the mall. The Macy's corridor still has the most open stores. Macy's may soon become offices for the college. The fountains are still on for now even though most of the stores have left this part of the mall. Inside of the JCPenney appears to have been gutted and ready for the renovation into offices.

Images from July 2013, forgive the glare on the pictures this when my old camera started messing up.
Here is what I wrote in 2013. Here we are again at Highland Mall in 2013. Highland Mall continues to operate with several businesses still operating and the food court is doing good with some new restaurants. The redevelopment of the property has begun with the Dillard's Woman's store under renovation. The mall seems to be holding on, but not many chain stores are left here. Some of the new tenants will go well with the redevelopment plan such as a boxing/ fitness space near the entrance of the former Dillard's Woman's store. Here is my idea/ opinion on what could be done with the remaining mall stores. The retail options should be consolidated into one wing preferably in the former Macy's corridor. Both sides of that corridor have entrances on the second floor which is where the food court is located. The rest of the mall should be used for the college. The former Macy's could partially be used for a discount department store such as Burlington and that would keep the retail component of the mall with constant customer traffic. A small renovation of the remaining mall should also help to bring more people to the mall. The former JCPenney is slated for renovation and redevelopment in 2014. The JCPenney store closed in 2006. Dillard's Woman's store closed in 2011. The space is under renovation for part of the Austin Community College redevelopment. Here are some views of the former Dillard's Woman's store corridor of the mall. Several stores have left the second level, but some stores have opened on the first level. Here are some views from the former Macy's corridor. Many stores have left this section of the mall since 2011. The fountains in the mall are still operating as normal despite no stores in this section of the mall. Here are some views from the former JCPenney corridor. The Kids Foot Locker on the first level is the only Foot Locker left in the mall. The mall had Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, and Kids Foot Locker just a few years ago. Champs Sports is still tucked away in the bottom corner near the former JCPenney. The food court and center court area of the mall. Some new restaurants have opened in the past few years to replace ones that left.

 Now onto the newer stuff from January 2015.
As you can see there is a big difference in mall traffic and store counts from my last visit to the mall. 
The mall directory had not been updated since around the time the final Dillard's closed.
The former Dillard's Women's store had the entrances boarded up. The Dillard's space is going to be occupied by Rackspace once a deal is finalized. 
You have to wonder how old these candies are.
The Hurricane Simulator had an out of order sign.
Both of these stores were gone shortly after this picture was taken.
The fountains in front of the former Macy's were still on.
The food court.
As you can see to the left the former JCPenney entrances had been painted over.
Ceiling damage in front of the old GNC.
The center court still looks very appealing even with most of the stores closed.
Escalators out of service, noooooooo.
As you can see, not many businesses were left.

The fountain on this side of the mall was finally covered up.

As you can see here the former JCPenney on the left has been completely renovated.
The four story former Dillard's Women's store was also under construction.
Shortly after my visit to the mall the news broke about the mall closing on April 30, 2015.

Here is the store list at the end of January 2015. 39 interior stores, 1 outparcel, and the college campus.
Austin Creative Alliance
Austin Moto Academy
Austin Playhouse
AVON
Baby Steps
Ballet Afrique
Blenders
Bold Street Coffee
Browz and Henna Salon
Champs Sports
El Palacio De La Quinceanera
Eufracio Insurance
Excellence Salon and Barbers
Fantastic Magic Camp
Footaction USA
Foundation Communities
Gamefellas/Moviefellas
Great Wraps and Cheesesteaks
Highland Ballroom
House of Torment (Outparcel)
Image
It's All about You Boutique
Jimmy Jazz
Journeys 
Kids Foot Locker
La Chaparrita Peruvian Restaurant
Lids
NYS Collection
Perfume Palace
Sauced
SenSe
Star Electronics
Stich
Sweet Factory
TJ Jewelry and Watch
Treasures
Treasures Kiosk
Wireless Accessories I
Wireless Accessories II
Zales Jewelers

And finally April 2015, the final weeks of the mall.
Very few stores were left at this point, the mall website was still being updated with the remaining stores. I did my best to group the photos together by section of the mall.

Center court area.
Between the North and South mall entrances near the former Macy's.
The former Dillard's Clearance/Men's store.
A look from near the entrance of the JCPenney.
The South mall entrance near the Macy's
Back to the Dillard's Women's store corridor second floor.
And the first floor.
A few close ups of food court outlets.
The second floor JCPenney corridor had no more stores left, even the Children's rides had been removed.
The sign was randomly placed in this hall near the former JCPenney.
Here is a close up of the above sign.
JCPenney corridor first floor.
The first floor of the center court area.
The first floor of the Macy's corridor.
The second floor of the Macy's corridor. 
As you can see the interior demolition was underway behind the closed gates of a few stores near Macy's.
The North entrance to the mall near Macy's
Food court/ Center court
The Dillard's Women's store/ Joske's corridor.
One of the two store interiors pictured here was once an FYE, but I cannot remember which one it was.
Food court and center court area.
Near the food court and Macy's second floor.
The first floor of the Macy's corridor.

Looking towards the former JCPenney on the first floor.
A former video game store.
And a peek inside.
Now for some final exterior photos.
Foley's/Macy's labelscar.
Here were the final stores at the mall which closed on April 30, 2015. 20 interior stores/services, 1 outparcel, and the college campus.
Austin Creative Alliance
Austin Moto Academy
Austin Playhouse
AVON
Baby Steps
Ballet Afrique
Blenders
El Palacio De La Quinceanera
Eufracio Insurance
Excellence Salon and Barbers
Foundation Communities
Gamefellas/Moviefellas
Great Wraps and Cheesesteaks
Highland Ballroom
House of Torment (Outparcel)
It's All about You Boutique
La Chaparrita Peruvian Restaurant
Perfume Palace
SenSe
TJ Jewelry and Watch
Treasures

Here is the sign that was on all of the mall entrances.
So what happened here? I believe it was a failure by management to improve the mall when JCPenney left and nearby retail competition took advantage. The mall is located in a prime location, but had not been updated for many years. Also after JCPenney left, negative publicity was poorly handled by mall management which led to the closing of the remaining anchors, and the loss of many loyal mall shoppers. The news about the mall property changed over the years as Austin Community College became more involved with the property eventually purchasing the entire mall site. Austin Community College will bring this property back to life and improve the community. The interior of the mall is currently being gutted and will reopen to mall walkers in the near future while construction is being completed.

20 comments:

  1. Macy's announcement that they plan on closing 40 store next year is interesting. I bet greenspoint is on that list I was wondering if westoaks would be on that list but they are renovating that store and changing carpeting so I don't think they would be one to consider but greenspoint, Pasadena town square and san Jacinto are big possibilities.

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    1. I can see Greenspoint and Pasadena Town Square as stores that Macy's may close sooner rather than later. I think San Jacinto Mall will still be there for a while longer. The store still has a full selection of products and has not been downsized like the other stores. The mall is going to be redeveloped over the next 3 years so Macy's may even renovate that store. The store actually has a 80's Foley's logo labelscar visible under the Macy's logo.

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  2. Thanks for putting this article together. It’s been almost 20 years since I last visited Highland Mall, but I do remember my visits there. The mall was still doing pretty well 20 years ago, but it was feeling dated even back then. It never got the renovations that it needed. I’m not sure if it would have helped much with the explosion of growth in the Austin suburbs, but perhaps the Highland Mall area had enough potential shoppers between the residents in the area, tourists, and college students if the mall was operated better.

    It’s kind of interesting to see a mall rot on the watch of GGP and Simon. Usually dead malls are operated by lesser mall operators, not some of the most successful ones. Perhaps GGP and Simon kind of let the mall die purposely to try to redevelop it into something else. It’s hard to say.

    The mall was also pretty famous for some of it’s controversies. The Texas Relays situation garnered a lot of attention across the state. I’m sure some shoppers were fed up of having to deal with the teens, but then others were probably fed up with the mall due their reaction of the teens. Of course, one of the most famous dying mall stories was “toilet papergate” when Dillard’s tried to get out of their lease by claiming in part that the mall had stores that sold toilet paper.

    It’s sad to see another mall go, especially one that I shopped at, but that’s just the way things go I guess. The closing wasn’t too unexpected. At least you have plenty of photos for people to remember the mall by.

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    1. The area near Highland is actually booming, but I think Highland declined too fast for them to save it once JCPenney left. A renovation around 2000 would have probably helped the mall to survive longer than it did.

      The Texas Relays and Dillard's lawsuit really hastened the decline at the mall. Both situations were handled very poorly and the retailers at the mall suffered because of the inability to handle the situations properly.

      In the future I will keep my eyes open for updates. If the mall is once again opened to the public you know I will be there.

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  3. Highland Mall wasn’t my first choice of malls when I was a student in the late 80’s/early 90’s; though it was much closer to the UT campus than Barton Creek Square, I would gladly take the longer bus ride to Barton Creek Square, because Barton Creek Square seemed bigger had more of the stores that I liked than Highland Mall did. Nevertheless, I’m actually kind of sad that Highland Mall as I knew it is no more.

    Though Barton Creek Square had more of the stores that I liked, Highland Mall had the one Units store in the Austin area, and that’s part of what brought me to the mall every now and again. Units was a women’s clothing store that sprang up in the 80’s, that specialized in “modular dressing.” The basic idea was that you could design a whole Units wardrobe around a few basic one-size pieces. I didn’t have a full Units wardrobe, but I did buy a few tops, jackets, and skirts from them during that time. Units was located across from the food court on the… I want to say Foley’s/Macy’s wing; it’s been so long that I don’t really remember exactly which anchor it was. When I visited Austin in ’95, I went to Highland Mall, and Units was gone. Not too surprising, since modular dressing was more or less a short-lived fad and Units had difficulty moving beyond that concept, but still a disappointment.

    Though I did like going to Highland Mall to peruse the latest pieces from Units, I wasn’t quite as fond as the gangs of rowdy high school kids that started going there on the weekends. There weren’t that many of those groups when I first started going, but as my college career progressed, their numbers grew, and going there on the weekends became much less fun, having to work my way around the throngs of kids that the security guards kept having to tell to move along. I still went to Highland Mall, though, because it was nice to get away from the campus area every now and again.

    The last time I was at Highland Mall was in ’06. I remember being shocked that JC Penney was gone by then. *sigh*

    RIP Highland Mall.

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    1. Barton seemed to be the high end mall of the area once opened. They have continued to keep the mall in top condition and attract and retain the top mall tenants. Highland had many great stores until around 2000, when they started losing good stores that were replaced by discount/mom and pop stores. I guess the school kids really began to hurt business over the years. It is a shame mall management did not work to correct the issues that led to the decline of the mall. For a city the size of Austin to only have 2 enclosed malls seems strange to me.

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  4. How did it happen that in Meyerland, the former Kmart at the mall became a Target, but the 1984 Target in town became a Kmart? I would much appreciate a timeline of this chain of events.

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    1. Kmart and Target both closed several stores in the Houston area but at different times. I know Target closed several stores in the late 90's and early 2000's in areas where they were not replaced like the location where Kmart took over. Kmart started closing stores in the late 1990's up until they left the area in 2003. The Target that became a Kmart was discussed in detail in a comment a few months ago, but I am not sure where that comment is located.

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    2. The Meyerland Target has an even more interesting history than what was mentioned above. The site's discount store history started when Venture opened up there in the early-to-mid 1990s (not sure when for sure, but I'd guess that it was around 1993 as that's when many other Houston Ventures were built). Venture left the Houston market in 1997 and sold many of their stores to Kmart including the Meyerland store. Kmart left town in 2002-3 and Target took the spot over. Target may have done an extensive renovation of the spot as I was at the store last December and it looks like a normal Target inside. I'm not sure what was on the spot before Venture. It may have been a theater, but I'm not sure. I'm also not sure if the prior tenant's building was totally demolished when Venture went up.

      As for the Target turned Kmart, that was on Fondren. Here is a picture. I really don't know much about that location other than what's in the photo.

      I hope that helps.

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    3. Thanks for clarifying that for us. I need to find a list of the old Venture locations in the Houston area. I left the area for a few years around the time those stores opened so I did not get a chance to see where most of the locations were. I visited the FM 1960 near I-45 location twice and that was about all I saw of Venture.

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    4. The only Target that closed without replacement that I know of (other than the one on Fondren) is the one on 8 Mile Road in Detroit. That one was in a former Two Guys building. The Target really only closed because the neighborhood went sour.

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    5. There have been other Targets that have closed supposedly without a direct replacement. Sometimes it’s hard to say if a new store is a replacement store or just a new store in general. As far as I know, the old South Loop Target in Houston closed without a replacement. Granted, that was many years ago. The store became an Auchan briefly and is now a warehouse or something (it still looks like an Auchan though).

      It’s debatable whether the Target across from the former Rolling Acres Mall (a heavily covered dead mall) in Akron, OH, was closed totally or replaced. The Target in Bedford, OH, supposedly closed without being replaced. Of course, Target left Canada so there’s a whole country full of unreplaced Targets. I’m sure there are other examples, but those are some examples.

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    6. Target entered Atlanta in the late 80's by buying a chain called Richway, but around 1995 started relocating a lot of the Richway/Target stores to Target Greatland stores in more modern shopping centers. Lots of the ex-Richway/Target stores ended up as Value City stores but Value City (except for Value City Furniture) went out of business in 2008.

      Sort of ironically, the Cheltenham Square Mall in Philadelphia had a Value City store (that itself was a former Clover department store) that closed in 2008 but a Target opened the same year at the other end of the mall, on the site of a demolished AMC theater.

      Target entered Indianapolis in 1981 by buying a local chain called Ayr-Way. Funnily enough, there was a tornado in the early 90's that damaged an Ayr-Way/Target store to the point that the stain from the old Ayr-Way signage became visible, at least a decade after the name change! Target closed the store anyway because it was small and outdated, replacing it with a Target Greatland. Sadly the neighborhood around the old Ayr-Way/Target has really gone downhill since around 2000.

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  5. Major update
    Macy's westoaks has reopened the top floor
    They removed the wall blocking the other side of upstairs
    Now one can walk the entire way upstairs
    They moved children's down stairs and expands the clearance center furniture upstairs

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    1. Thanks for the update, it looks like Macy's is doing better at West Oaks. I wonder if any of the Houston area locations are going to close in 2016 when the company plans to close about 40 stores.

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    2. My bet is greenspoint, Pasadena townsqaure or san jacinto. My last trip to greenspoint, the store looked really bad, half of the store the speaker wasn't working so no music on half of the store. The cellar area looked really bad. it looked like a flea market. For Pasadena townsqaure, I don't know whats happening there. They closed upstairs maybe they want to make the store smaller. As for San Jacinto , they may close it but they may wait for redevelopment. Although they could close before redevelopment happens. Remember Neiman Marcus at town and country , they waited for redevelopment and then they eventually closed before city Centre came.

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    3. Thanks for the update about the West Oaks Mall Macy's. I was at West Oaks recently, but I didn't visit the Macy's. It sounds like the store is doing well to justify the renovations, but I must say that the parking lot in front of the Macy's was surprisingly empty. The entrance facing the Westheimer/SH 6 intersection literally had 2 cars in front of it. 2. The other entrances were busier. I wouldn't have expected to see a ton of cars there during the middle of the day on a weekday, but even Sears had a decent number of cars in front of all the entrances.

      I'll post more observations from my West Oaks visit in the RadioShack post.

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  6. When Walmart opened a Bud's Discount City store, did they do anything to change the building (other than signage)? Also, were any Bud's stores NOT former Walmart stores?

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    1. It’s hard for me to remember what Bud’s looked like back in the day since I didn’t shop there frequently and they didn’t last long. I don’t think Wal-Mart did much to those stores once they became Bud’s. I seem to remember Bud’s having departments, but they stores were much more open feeling than regular Wal-Marts and the departments kind of just ran together instead of having a more segmented feel.

      I can’t remember any Bud’s that weren’t old Wal-Marts. Some may have existed, but I can’t think of any.

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    2. One feature I have noticed about 80's and early 90's Walmart stores is that the fire sprinklers had a white top but a silver bottom. I wonder if Walmart had that particular sprinkler invented just for them. Sort of ironically, Albertsons in the late 90's started using sprinklers that were all white instead of the white/silver hybrid.

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