On Sept. 8, the Chevron gas station located on the corner of Figueroa Street and Exposition Boulevard closed shop to make way for construction of new luxury digs for USC students.
The Icon Company provides real estate self-proclaimed as “upscale mixed-use student housing … at top universities throughout California.” The Icon Company’s latest installment will be an apartment complex where the gas station once stood, finally providing the lap of luxury that ’SC students have longed for.
But wait, doesn’t USC already have two such complexes, one on either side of where Icon Plaza will be built?
Well, yes. Tuscany apartments was built a few short years ago while University Gateway opened its doors just this fall. Neither building is renting at full capacity, which is easily understandable given the one-two punch of a recession and the exorbitant price tags of the apartments.
We already have an excess of pricey apartments. What we do not have excess of are gas stations. Chevron was one of the closest to campus — tied with the ampm station on Vermont avenue and Exposition — and in its absence students will be forced to travel greater distances in search of fuel.
I considered Gateway a while back when I was still unsure of where to live the next time housing assignments rolled around. I was of course blown away by the luxe amenities and spacious rooms, but the price tag quickly brought me back to reality when we were casually told that our bill would total to roughly $12,000 for two semesters. Indulgence was simply too expensive for us (and about twice the cost of most university housing).
USC Housing certainly has its imperfections. Many of my friends were forced to turn to Tuscany or Gateway because their lottery times were such that the only options left were blocks away from campus, and they simply didn’t consider the distance feasible. Few among them actually chose these “finer” living arrangements before again trying their luck through USC Housing.
So what makes the future Icon Plaza so different — so much more splurge-worthy — than the rest? Icon has been advertised as glamorous, upscale — the high life. You can bet that the accompanying pricetag will be just as high. And if Gateway and Tuscany are already not fully occupied, how can The Icon Company be so sure that its venture will be more successful? True, the project’s plans probably didn’t take the recession into account, but shouldn’t the company consider a more reasonable set-up in lieu of its current lavish layout? If making money is its ultimate goal, then it seems in its best interest to edit its plans in accordance with the current economic climate.
The Icon Plaza website pitches the building through a 90210-esque lens, promising that students who choose the apartments will enjoy the “most coveted address” at USC. I’m still unclear on how this address — on the corner of Figueroa and Exposition — will be so much more exclusive than either Tuscany or Gateway (which are, incidentally, both located along Figueroa and less than half a mile in either direction of this “coveted” corner.)
In an obvious attempt to market the Icon Plaza as the ultimate utopia of living arrangements, the Icon Company seems to have forgotten that not too long ago — as recently as this fall, in fact — other housing corporations attempted to do the same, and that their success has been lukewarm at best. Desperately, the Gateway promotions and price cuts are routinely broadcast by sign-twirling men located on the corner of Hoover Street and Jefferson Boulevard, and on-campus bikers boasting swag upon signing and peddling the message to “Go Gateway.”
The Icon Company needs to re-evaluate its premises. True, its mission statement is to deliver the very best accommodations — but the very best by whose standards? Is the scale simply one of ascending opulence? It’s no secret that USC needs more housing closer to campus, but this won’t be a viable solution for the middle majority of its student body. The relative failure of Gateway should be proof enough that even if USC has been labeled the “University of Spoiled Children,” few people are quite so affluent or willing to pay that extra amount.
The company should reconfigure its plans and give students what they really want and, more importantly, need: modest, convenient and affordable housing.
Deepa Ramprasad is a sophomore majoring in public relations.