As USC’s Master Plan awaits city approval, the school will undertake projects outside the plan’s scope during the fall semester — including improvements to one of the most heavily trafficked intersections near campus.
After a fatal hit-and-run last year, USC has decided to make safety improvements at the intersection of Jefferson Boulevard and Hoover Street and along Jefferson.
“It’s at the point where we need to do something,” said Director of Entitlements Brian League, who collaborated with the city to put together a plan for changes along Jefferson.
The improvements would include more traffic control signals, automated speed feedback signs along the roads, additional street lighting, pavement patterns at the intersections and the elimination of the church driveway entrance at the intersection of Jefferson and Hoover, League said. The university also hopes to receive a permit from the city to construct a signal at the intersection of Hoover and 28th Street before the start of fall classes.
Most of the improvements will happen during the semester, though USC hopes to have temporary speed feedback signs in place before school starts.
Yet those changes are minor compared to what USC hopes to do if the Master Plan is approved. Under the plan — a broad roadmap for developments in and around campus over the next two decades — Jefferson could become a pedestrian-friendly road that is part of the USC campus.
For now, any Master Plan improvements are on hold. The plan was approved by the Board of Trustees in fall of 2008, but developments can’t start until the city approves its own version of the plan. This is expected to happen sometime in 2010.
In preparation for an Environmental Impact Report, which is required before construction can begin, the city is assessing the impact developments would have on traffic, noise and local residents, both during and after construction.
After the EIR is available to the public — likely early 2010 — the city and USC will respond to comments from community members and USC students, faculty and staff who will be impacted.
Kristina Raspe, associate senior vice president of real estate and asset management, said the first project the school proposes would likely include the University Village, Cardinal Gardens and Century Apartments. Raspe estimated that it would take a year to get approval on a project and that ground would be broken by January 2012, at the earliest.
Raspe said the retailers for the new University Village have not been determined, as the new shopping center will likely not open for another five years.
Though changes are still a while down the road, students and community members have already begun to voice concerns.
Shawn Simons is president of the North Area Neighborhood Development Council, a city neighborhood council representing the area that includes USC. He’s concerned that students will flood the community in search of housing if USC tears down Cardinal Gardens and Century Apartments — possibly displacing community members along the way.
“We haven’t really gotten a clear plan from USC about what is going to happen to the University Village area,” he said.
Still, those behind the Master Plan said they believe it will be beneficial to both the university and the community.
“Once the project is complete, it would be a real benefit to the students, faculty and staff of the university as well as the current surrounding community members,” Raspe said.