My childhood mall, which was once the indoor retail hot spot of Austin, has slowly joined the land of the dead malls over the last decade. This week it closed its doors for good, and it will be converted to a branch of Austin Community College. Highland Mall was built in 1971, and it was Austin’s first indoor mall. You can read more about the mall’s history in this heartfelt article. The piece notes that “life revolved around the mall,” and that celebrities who came to Austin stopped by to shop. I’m no celeb, but this week I visited Highland Mall one last time with my camera, and today’s post is filled with photos of this once-vibrant space…
A few words before I let the pictures speak for themselves: To a kid in the ’80s, this mall was retail heaven. The skylights, the fountains, the massive amounts of tile, the indoor plants. The Food Court. I spent many an afternoon eating pizza with my mom at that Food Court. It was a part of our shopping ritual. It wasn’t about the shopping—it was about spending time together. If you were a child of the ’80s or the ’90s, you know how a trip to the mall was everything on a weekend afternoon. Who doesn’t remember the first time they were dropped off to shop with friends…without parental supervision!
This isn’t Austin’s only mall, and you can bet I still spend quite a bit of time walking around the other two, checking out the un-remodeled areas of certain stores (I nearly cried when they remodeled the Dillard’s furniture department at Barton Creek Mall last year).
I’ve seen lots of photos of dead malls over the last year, but I never fully realized that Highland Mall was already gone. On Thursday evening, the last night of Highland Mall’s existence as a retail destination, I was not alone in my nostalgic walk. There were other folks with cameras, some alone and some with friends and family.
Songs like “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste of Honey played over the speakers, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the ’70s selections were intentional. I spent a LOT of time here in the ’80s. This post is my goodbye to Highland Mall. The one thing that comforts me: The mall isn’t being demolished or left to rot. It’s being transformed into an institution of higher learning. Maybe they’ll even keep some of the fountains, skylights and indoor plants. Enjoy the photos: