The Highland Mall was the first major indoor shopping complex in Austin, TX when it first opened in 1971, and remained a bustling and hugely popular place for Austin’s shoppers to go right through the 80′s and much of the 1990′s. However, as the demographics of the area changed with much of Austin spreading out into neighboring suburbs, the Highland Mall rapidly dropped in popularity and acquired a reputation as a mall with high crime levels. There was also a high profile racial incident at the mall which further exacerbated its problems.
The mall is still open, and has a number of good stores still in place including the anchoring JC Penney, though many feel this has gone into disrepair and been left to deteriorate by the company and the mall’s owners. A lot of popular chains that used to be present in the Highland Mall have vacated, however, leaving a lot of unfilled empty lots. These include Barnes & Noble, The Body Shop, Crabtree & Evelyn, The Disney Store, Banana Republic, Limited Too, the Sleep Number Store, Guess, Aveda, Ann Taylor, Jessica McClintock and Lane Bryant. The other remaining anchor stores, Dillard’s and Macy’s, have cut their store size considerably, leaving fewer floors of merchandise to buy and lots of empty space.
It is estimated that of the 180 units for rent in the Highland Mall, only 70 have current occupants, meaning that there are more empty shops than there are occupied ones. The mall hasn’t been remodeled since the 1980′s, and while it is for the most part clean, it has a very outdated look that probably won’t be addressed any time soon. Most people in the area see this as a mall on its way out, and while it still has some foot traffic, it seems that the Highland Mall is irretrievably destined to become another one of America’s dead malls.