Austin Community College District’s (ACC) Rio Grande Campus has been recognized with a Preservation Austin award for rehabilitation. The Preservation Merit Awards, now in its 61st year, recognizes ambitious and innovative approaches to preserving the city’s historic places.

Renovations to the Rio Grande Campus Building 1000 began in summer 2017 and were funded by ACC’s 2014 bond. The critical updates to the nearly 100-year old main campus building preserved the history, while providing state-of-the-art classrooms, innovative labs, and accelerated learning environments.

“Our 2021 awards illustrate Austin’s diversity in so many ways,” says Lindsey Derrington, Preservation Austin’s Executive Director. “Projects draw from more than 100 years of history, across distinct architectural styles and building types. They honor multi-generational advocates celebrating heritage in all parts of the city, demonstrating the strength and depth of Austin’s preservation movement.”

History of Rio Grande Campus

The historic ACC Rio Grande Campus was designed by Austin architect Dennis Walsh, built by Van Horn-Shaw Construction of Fort Worth, and funded with a bequeathment by John T. Allan, the “father of industrial education in Texas.” The building, originally serving as a high school, was constructed as a T-shaped 3-story building. In 1925 the school received an expansion that doubled its size. The building has continuously housed a tax-payer-supported education provider for its local community since its construction 105 years ago. ACC took stewardship of the property in 1975, and it remains the college’s oldest operating campus. 

Rio Grande Campus Historic Renovations

The Rio Grande Campus renovation project included the rehabilitation of the entire 139,000-square-foot historic structure.

The college restored the exterior to its 1916 and 1925 appearance and upgraded the interior to reflect a distinctively modern aesthetic with illuminated translucent stairs and glass guardrails. The campus also now features a large courtyard on the south side, recessed below street-level to preserve the appearance of the original façade. 

One key challenge in the renovation was the preservation of the open experience of the twin courtyards. These areas are now enclosed and serve as interior spaces, but they’re topped with a polymer inflatable roof system that allows full overhead diffused sunlight. 

A second challenge was with the masonry. Historic brick was salvaged where demolition freed original material, but there was not enough for all necessary repairs. Modern brick was supplemented and received a custom-mixed finish to match the historic look. 

To learn more about the project and all 2014 bond projects, visit