The land ACC bought for future development in a view from the ACC Pinnacle parking lot. The Austin skyline is visible upper right, and the arches of the McDonald’s near the ‘Y’ are center left.
by Bobbie Jean Sawyer
An Austin Community College official recently offered a glimpse into the possible future for ACC’s Pinnacle branch—two new buildings would be built on ACC land near the current Pinnacle building, and the old building could be sold and turned into high-end condos or a business tower.
Bill Mullane, executive director of facilities and construction at ACC, addressed the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods (OHAN) monthly meeting at the ACC Pinnacle on November 14, and gave a presentation detailing the phases of the possible remodel of ACC Pinnacle.
Mullane said district-wide ACC enrollment is currently over 43,000 and is projected to grow to 66,000 by 2025, heightening the need for more space per student.
“ACC has had a lot of growth enrollment for a few years as education has become more important in the workforce,” Mullane said. “Our student body is very diverse, all ages; they come from a wide area. Many have families. Many work part time. It’s a very different student body than you get at most four year schools.”
Earlier this year ACC finalized its purchase of Highland Mall with plans to renovate the retail facility into an education facility, providing more space for its booming student enrollment.
Mullane said this “swing space” would be beneficial as construction gets underway at other locations throughout the district.
“Most campuses don’t have the space to allow us to do renovations or expansions while the facilities are in operation, so we need some swing space or flex space where we can move people from a building to another location to free up space,” Mullane said.
While ACC Pinnacle is not in an area with major projected enrollment growth, the facility’s maintenance and current space issues, along with ACC’s acquisition of the land adjacent to the current campus, make the Pinnacle an attractive candidate for expansion, according to the 2007 Facilities Master Plan.
Mullane said the proposal for Phase 1 of the ACC Pinnacle plan includes two 4-story buildings and a parking garage, which could potentially be built without having to close the current location.
“It wouldn’t be the easiest thing to do but relative to the swing space issue it would be great to try to keep this campus open while we do any potential new construction,” Mullane said.
If construction moves forward with the two buildings, Mullane said the current building may no longer be needed as an educational facility.
“The capacity here is a little over 5,000 students and our projection is that by 2025 we will not have demand at this campus for more than about 4,400. Therefore, it’s possible that this building would not be needed for education,” Mullane said.
Mullane said the Pinnacle’s limited bathrooms and parking and lack of a student lounge area makes it better suited to office space than a community college.
“We think there might be a good market for it if we were to have our constructional purposes occur in other buildings,” Mullane said. “The question is: do we want to only build new or do we want to build new and retro-fit? The thinking here is that this building would probably be worth more to somebody as offices or high-end condos than it would take us to build something, because of the view and other market factors.”
Mullane said ACC Pinnacle’s fluctuating enrollment may be due in part to its inconvenient location and Oak Hill’s congested traffic.
“When enrollment goes up district-wide a little bit, it goes up a whole lot here. When it drops a little bit in the district it drops a whole lot here. We’ve seen that happen in the last few years,” Mullane said. “We think that part of that is because it’s hard to get to and so students are enrolling at a place that’s easier to get to first. The traffic is a major factor in being easy to get to.”
Mullane said a renovated campus adjacent to restaurants and shopping could make the Oak Hill location more attractive to students.
“One of the challenges we hear most often with this campus is that it’s so isolated,” Mullane said. “It doesn’t have convenient shopping or a place where you can go out and get a sandwich or cup of coffee or books. It’s not convenient to places where students can live very easily. If we could get mixed use in the vicinity of the campus that would be a big benefit.”
The possible construction of a new ACC campus is still in the early stages and subject to timing and the availability of funding, Mullane said.
“This is a guideline to help us think about it, particularly in relationship to how other campuses would expand and how we would allocate our resources across the district,” Mullane said. “We have a number of other campuses that have much more significant issues than this campus does, relative to the condition of the building, relative even to crowding and a number of other factors. Those campuses really need to be dealt with first even if we have to use swing space to vacate a building to do that work. That has to happen first because the need there is greater.”
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