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.
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.