Original Date of Publication: Sept. 9, 1999
USC has purchased the University Village shopping center, a move expected to lower the vacancy rate of the center and increase services available to students and the community, university officials said Wednesday.
Negotiations began in May and were completed last week, said Mary Hayakawa, director of property sales, development and management. Hayawaka declined to state the cost of the shopping center.
There are no plans to tear down the 14.6-acre shopping center, which will continue to house USC offices and retail stores, Hayakawa said.
“We plan to continue to operate the village as a viable retail establishment,” she said. “Space on campus is always changing and we will use the space as necessary.”
UV has about a 20 percent vacancy rate and was refinanced in 1998. The mall opened in 1975 and was offered for sale in May.
Several university offices, such as USC’s Travel Store, have leased space on the second floor of the UV for years, Hayakawa said. Administrators will complete a long-term strategic plan in the next few months, she said.
There are 56 leases in the UV, which has about 200,000 square feet of leasable space. Leases will be considered for renewal as they expire, a process expected to begin next year, Hayakawa said.
“They will be negotiated at a fair market value,” she said. “The long term is really for the university administration to determine.
“In the short term, this will be good not only for the staff, faculty and students, but for the community as well because we will maintain (the turn-around) that has already been started.”
Managers at Starbucks, which opened last month, have not had any problems, said Jenny Lang, a shift supervisor.
“A bookstore would be nice so people could read while they drink their coffee,” said Lang, who has worked in Pasadena and Downtown. “This is an area where Starbucks wouldn’t normally have a store, but we’ve still been pretty busy.”
Parking areas are spotted with potholes and need to be improved for better customer service, said Alexander Hernandez, manager of Subway in UV.
“We also need signs that publicize what stores are in here,” he said. “USC students know what they have, but people driving by don’t. I think (the purchase) will make us communicate better with the community and with USC.”
Student Senate President Tyler Kelley said he heard about the plans for purchase in August and sent a letter to Thomas Moran, vice president for business affairs, requesting an opportunity for student input. Kelley said he has not received any response from Moran, who could not be reached for comment.
“It is absolutely critical to have students involved in anything like this,” said Kelley, a senior majoring in political science and international relations. “This isn’t something we’re going to see now. This is for the future students who come in two, five or 10 years.”
All stores and their services should remain the same, said Arnold Tsai, a sophomore majoring in biology.
“I think it’s a cool place. Things are cheaper there,” Tsai said. “If we can use discretionary there now, that would be awesome.”
Because the stores will still be privately owned, it is unlikely the purchase will have any effects on Senate’s plan to implement discretionary off campus, Kelley said.
UV currently contracts with an outside security agency, and it has not been determined whether the area will now come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Safety, said Chief Bob Taylor.
“We need to look at the kind of operations that would be needed and see if there is an advantage in maintaining the service they already have,” Taylor said, adding that three or four security guards patrol the property in each shift which would still be the case if DPS took over. “There are details like their cameras and alarm system that have to be worked out. We have to see if those should be connected to us.”
Founders Bank in UV was robbed the week before classes started and response time may have been quicker if the systems were connected with DPS, Taylor said.
Many store managers are speculating additional businesses will be attracted to UV.
“Competition is always good for everybody,” said Carl Ozuna, manager of the Paper Clip. “It seems like USC has a really positive attitude and it will be business as usual.”
Students hope to see more well-known businesses.
“I’d like to see some places people have heard of,” said Jennifer Ely, a senior majoring in psychology. “Hopefully, they’ll actually do something with it. They need to get big-name stores so people will go there. I have a car, so I can go other places, but if that was my only outlet, it would be bad if they tore it down.”
Commuter Nicole Johnson has never shopped at UV, but hopes the USC purchase will improve the area.
“If there were shops and restaurants, I’d probably go,” said Johnson, an undeclared sophomore. “Everyone’s told me there’s no reason to go because there is nothing there.