Since the Planning and Land Use Management Committee approved USC’s $1 billion plan for renovating the University Village on Oct. 10, students remain split on whether the project will be a positive addition to the surrounding community or a strain on university finances and residents who depend on the UV for retail services and jobs.
The Village at USC, which plans to add restaurants, shops and 3,000 new spaces for students in university housing, is expected to receive final approval from the Los Angeles City Council in November. By May, all but two of the 45 independent tenants in the UV will be on month-to-month leases, and construction on the project could begin as early as this summer, according to USC’s Real Estate and Asset Management Department.
David Galaviz, executive director of local government relations, said that The Village at USC would benefit the school and the local community by providing more jobs for residents in the new development and retail spaces to be used by locals and students. He also said the project would spur economic development in the area.
Vanessa Sterrett, a junior majoring in economics, agreed with Galaviz, saying that the new housing and shopping opportunities the renovations will provide are a necessary addition to the university’s surrounding area.
“We are in need of housing closer to the campus, and if USC could provide that, we wouldn’t have to deal with the leasers that are sort of taking advantage of USC students right now,” Sterrett said. “If you look at other universities, a lot of them have a general university campus area right outside their main campus, and I think that that’s something USC has been lacking.”
Many students said they hope The Village at USC will include a wider variety of dining options, a grocery store, entertainment options such as movie theaters and bowling alleys and large discount stores like Target.
Several small business owners have recently voiced their concerns over the fate of their businesses at the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management meetings. An addendum that was added to the plan on Oct. 5 requires USC to negotiate with tenants and pursue good faith efforts to retain their businesses in the new Village.
Some business owners said at the meetings that the university has offered to provide an expert in relocating business to help them move during the construction process. The university has also agreed to a 30 percent local hiring goal for permanent University Village jobs.
Some students, like Orrin Barrow, a junior majoring in policy, planning and development, however, believe that these efforts are not enough to justify the displacement of several existing UV businesses during the construction process and the use of such a large amount of university funds.
“It’s nice in concept: They want to make this area more student-friendly and student-accessible. But in terms of their accommodation for the locals, I think it’s kind of poor, and I don’t believe it’s justified,” Barrow said. “The things they have there now are not up to date, but they do provide a central service in terms of groceries and other amenities for the locals. … It might be a necessity to add housing, but a billion-dollar project might be a bit much too. Housing doesn’t take a billion dollars.”
Jacob Flores, a junior majoring in philosophy, feels the funds that will be used to redevelop the University Village could be better spent on campus.
“If USC was actually about making things better for their students, they would renovate the housing that they already have, they would renovate the libraries and they would use money toward making classes more efficient,” Flores said.