Remodeling the Village harms local culture

Residents expressed mixed opinions about USC’s plan for The Village at an open house at the Galen Center last Thursday. Though The Village will certainly offer a notably nicer face of USC and its surrounding community, the plans for construction lack consideration for the history and significance of the area.

Esther Cheong | Daily Trojan

Inherent in any efforts at modernization is the destruction of past efforts, past culture and perhaps memories. USC should recognize that building The Village not only involves construction but destruction, and that its claims of improving the quality of life assert a clear form of cultural supremacy.

Accompanying these intentions is a clear loss of many defining features of USC. Closing the street from cars means closing off the street from food trucks, which add flavor to USC’s local cuisine at that particularly convenient location. Likewise, many of the unique restaurants and stores in University Village will be eliminated and replaced by larger chains, increasing the presence of big businesses, while pushing more individualized flavors into further obscurity.

The initial reactions at the open house, however, suggest a shared consensus among students that construction of The Village is a good thing.

The plans for The Village at USC are quite ambitious. The plan is expected to take at least eight years, with construction beginning in mid-2012. It is expected that approximately 8,000 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent positions will be created by the project.

Concern, as discussed in the Daily Trojan article “Residents unsure about The Village,” seems restricted primarily to local, non-student residents. Their concerns centered on the idea that The Village will be too student-centered, catering to a more wealthy student population than the less-affluent surrounding area.

USC has, to my knowledge, every legal right to allow for the completion of this project. It is this great power that USC possesses over the area that magnifies its responsibility toward considering the implications of its actions.

But the implications of the construction of The Village stretch far beyond the shopping options presented or whether affordable food from Superior  Grocers will no longer be easily available.

The improvements seem to be well intentioned enough. When completed, The Village will be closed off from cars, promoting a safer environment for pedestrians and bicyclists and the intention to build a DPS substation within the center reflects USC’s further commitment to student safety. Certainly promoting everybody’s safety would be desired almost ubiquitously.

Calling The Village an improvement to this area is in many ways difficult to dispute. Cleaner facilities, increased safety and improved student-housing — these are all changes that anybody would advocate. But does improvement mean transforming USC into more of an oasis among urbanity, a setting drastically differing from its surrounding areas?

More green space and more lighting are great for safety, but they establish a clearly different ambiance. Is USC trying to transform its part of Los Angeles into the posh, upscale Westwood?

USC is making a muscle-flexing statement with the construction of The Village. Certainly, USC commands jurisdiction over the area and is backed with massive funds, supportive alumni, students and faculty. The construction of The Village, accompanied by the destruction of the current University Village and surrounding buildings, seems largely unstoppable.

The U.V. is our weird, eerie shopping center. It’s a place where you can buy placental shampoo at the local grocery store. But it’s ours and it’s intrinsically a part of the Trojan experience and our community as a whole.

Destroying it only makes it another strip mall in a neighborhood filled with them. I’ll take a sub from Sandwich Island at the UV over yet another Quiznos in a Stepford Wives shopping center any day of the week.


Alan Wong is a sophomore majoring in East Asian languages and cultures. His column “Re-defining USC” runs Tuesdays. 

10 replies
  1. Yola
    Yola says:

    While I personally love Trader Joe’s, replacing Superior Market with it would create a hardship for so many locals. With all of USC’s entrepreneurial resources, perhaps USC can come up with a way to assist Superior Market to remake it’s business model so that this store becomes a model that serves both students and the surrounding community who have come to rely on it’s low cost food. That way, USC is truly helping to offer better quality food to low income residents and students without having to drive outside of this locale. I cringe when I think that UV will turn into something like the Grove! We are asked to donate to the Good Neighbors Campaign and in that lies a tremendous responsibility to the community, not just students whose parents are footing their bills.

  2. JR
    JR says:

    @ Jason

    The increase in University owned housing (not to mention the increase in privately owned student housing that has been and still is under construction) would drive DOWN rent in the area due to increased competition.

    Furthermore, attracting retailers like Trader Joe’s would mean that affordable produce would still be available. Not only does Trader Joe’s offer low prices, comparable to those at Superior, the quality of their produce far exceeds that of the produce available at Superior. Sure, they don’t sell ALL the same things, but Smart and Final is 3 blocks away, and Food 4 Less is 8 blocks away for any cleaning-supply or bulk-food buys.

    Finally, the new development will INCREASE the number of jobs available, bot in the short term and in the long term. Eight THOUSAND construction jobs ON TOP OF four THOUSAND permenant jobs.

  3. Jason
    Jason says:

    @Thomas and John M

    The downside is that many local and community-owned businesses will be forced to move out due to these modernization efforts. USC has an incredibly contentious history with the surrounding community and destroying the UV will only exacerbate these tensions and further contribute to the gentrification of the area. While you both argue that this new plan will be good for “everyone,” this modernization is certainly not helping the local community – the working class residents will see their rents driven up and their jobs given to commuter employees, making it nearly impossible for them to stay in the area.

    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      I wish that I cared. But I don’t.

      The UV is shot, and the university is derelict if it allows the facility to remain.

  4. John M
    John M says:

    I wonder how many top-caliber students, faculty members, and staff have considered USC over the years, only to ultimately choose somewhere else due to the neighborhood (the village, being USC-adjacent and in the heart of USC-centric North University Park, no doubt playing a huge role in this).

    Forgive me for thinking people might want better neighborhood entertainment options than a two screen theater with mysteriously sticky surfaces. I’ll concede that UV food is good though.

  5. John
    John says:

    I was a freshman in 1975 when UV was completed. How exciting to have a real shopping center (I think that’s what we called it back then) so close. As I recall, the market was called 32nd Street Market, and there were a few other stores open at the beginning along with the new B of A. Soon thereafter, Jefferson was widened to its current state between Vermont and Fig. That was progress. Cardinal Gardens was under construction and would open in time for my soph year in ’76.

    Now, as a father of a senior, and having explored UV over the past 4 years when visiting, all I can say, it is time for it to go. I have seen tremendous change over the last 30 years……and the plans for the new center and the north area will further add to the area. 100% benefits…… downside. (PS…great game last Saturday night!!!!! One of the best ever………Great weekend- Thanks!)

  6. Jon
    Jon says:

    Pretty disingenuous to desribed the proposed Village as just “another strip mall”. You’ve seen the renderings, right?

    But replacing Superior Grocers with Trader Joe’s would be be problematic for the blue-collar residents.

  7. Jim T
    Jim T says:

    This is probably the worst article I have read in the DT. The “argument” was so amateurish I would have thought it was written by a freshman in high school, not a world-class University. Hopefully Mr. Wong will continue to grow in his writing and analytical skills because he has a long way to go.

  8. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    Are you high?

    Have you seen the UV Village? It is an unmitigated dump, by any standards.

    This is good for everyone. There is no downside and you certainly have not made a case.

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