Why Rackspace Is Moving to Reinvented Highland Mall

The recent headline that Rackspace is negotiating a move into the old Highland Mall is fabulous news for a site that is already well underway toward a much-needed transformation.

There’s already a lot of exciting change reshaping Airport Blvd., and in particular, the former Highland Mall space: Austin Community College has visionary plans for the obsolete mall site, with one portion ready for classes. A 2014 ACC bond to finance Phase II will repurpose other portions of Highland Mall to serve as a regional workforce innovation center, regional health sciences center including STEM simulator lab, digital and creative media center, culinary and hospitality center, and incubator space.Screen shot 2014-11-05 at 10.35.29 AM

Then there is the public-private partnership with Red Leaf Properties to convert the former mall’s currently unused parking spaces into offices, residential, and retail that will ignite long awaited redevelopment on this section of Airport Blvd.

And then there’s Rackspace. Its Austin office is currently located right on I-35 north of US 183. So why is the company looking to move all 600 current and as many as 500 new employees to the remodeled Dillards at Highland Mall? The answer has a lot to do with transportation.

“We’ve been experiencing growth in Austin, and there were two big reasons for wanting to move into the Highland area,” says Bill Blackstone, director of Rackspace’s Austin operations. Screen shot 2014-11-05 at 10.36.34 AM

“First, it was to partner up with ACC with education. We’ve had a similar experience with our Open Cloud Academy in San Antonio, but it also fits into our company history.”

Blackstone also says that choosing the Highland area instead of a space downtown fits better with Rackspace’s idea of “substance over flash.” “We’re not looking for the type of cool spaces to move into. We cared more about transportation. The location sits well with our employees’ overall commute. It’s still central in Austin and it has access to public transportation. Current light rail…provides opportunities to attract talent from technical, talent-rich areas in the downtown core and the northern suburban areas through public transit and reduced commutes,” says Blackstone. “Rackspace will be a part of the revitalization of a once thriving, now depleted area of Central Austin.”Screen shot 2014-11-05 at 10.38.19 AM

This kind of forward thinking about the relationships between mobility, employee needs, and location is great for Austin.

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