AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Community College is a step closer to finishing its Highland Campus, and the former J.C. Penny building at Highland Mall no longer looks like a shopping space.
The college held a “dry-in” ceremony Wednesday with construction crews as they celebrated the 214,000 square foot space being sealed from the elements.
The campus features an open and contemporary design.
“One of the biggest challenges you face in a building this size is getting light to the interior,” said Bill Mullane, ACC executive director of facilities and construction.
Massive skylights extend from one end of the building to the other. The second floor opens up to the window-lined classrooms below. Natural light floods the center staircase, named the social stairs. It will be a gathering place for the 6,200 students who will eventually take classes there. Under the stairs, a coffee bar will be constructed.
The classroom and study space is innovative. ACC says they’ll have the largest interactive learning lab in the nation. At the length of a football field, 600 computers stations will allow students to learn at their own pace with the support of one-on-one faculty attention.
“Our goal is to get people in here, get them through, get them finished,” said Richard Rhodes, ACC president. “Get all of them to achieve their dreams, get into the workforce, get better paying jobs, get employment and start adding back to the community.”
The Highland Campus is being built to environmental friendly standards, LEED Silver. Near the front entrance, there will be two 23,000 gallon cisterns. The reclaimed water from the cisterns will flush the building.
This is phase one of the ACC Highland project, budgeted at $60 million. It will be finished in May with a grand opening set for August, just in time for fall semester.
Phase two creates the ACC Highland Complex. At 80.8 acres and 1.2 million square feet, there will be more classroom, performance areas and training spaces.
Phase three involves mix-use redevelopment. The goal is a combination of shopping, working, and living areas with acres of open space to enjoy.