Student interests fall into the Master Plan

Last weekend, my best friend came to town, and I wanted to show her around the USC area. I figured it was a perfect opportunity to check out L.A. Live and take advantage of the free weekend shuttle from The Lab.

After doing some research, I realized it actually was not an ideal activity because all the restaurants at L.A. Live would cost more than $20 per person, the Lucky Strike Lanes and Lounge would not admit us because the bowling alley only serves people over 21 after 7 p.m., and I was unimpressed by the selection of movies at Regal Cinemas.

To add insult to injury, Lucky Strike implements a strict dress code that prevents students from enjoying a casual outing to the bowling alley and charges $75 per lane for one hour (not including the $4.95 shoe fee).

Once my L.A. Live idea fell through, I could not find another safe, inexpensive, age-appropriate venue close by to visit on a moment’s notice. I preferred not to take my friend to Domino’s or Pasta Roma,  as those are generally my weekday dining choices, so I figured our best shot was to stay on campus or attend a party on The Row — again.

This was not the first weekend at USC that I could not find a suitable form of entertainment off campus.

Without an inexpensive and close assortment of activities within walking distance of campus, students are held hostage for the duration of the weekend.

Currently, the University Village offers an under par choice of weekend entertainment options. All I can think of is a slightly dilapidated movie theater and frozen yogurt bar. Students need more choices, and the UV is just the place that should provide weekend activities for them, such as a traditional bowling alley, movie theater, karaoke bar, pool hall or concert venue in which students can perform their original work. Weekend daytime establishments could include student-run art or dance lessons and a skating rink.

The UV has the potential to be an entertainment hub for students on the weekends because it is separated enough so students do not feel like they’re still at school. The venues could cater to both students and the community members and thus be more reasonably priced, unlike L.A. Live, which caters to working and wealthier Angelenos.

In addition to entertainment options, USC must also establish more reasonable grocery and dining options for students who are just beginning to live on their own and cannot differentiate an oven from a stove.

Grocery stores such as Vons, Albertsons and Trader Joe’s offer a huge selection of easy-to-prepare foods and frozen meals at low prices, perfect for college students. They also offer several different brands of each product so shoppers have the luxury of choosing one that suits them best.

Plus, several of those stores provide club cards that would allow students and local residents to save even more money on their groceries. Superior Grocers, which is currently located in the UV, does not provide an assortment of brands and is limited in its student-friendly products. USC can do better.

As a last necessity for students, the UV should include a larger pharmacy like CVS or Sav-On. The University Park Campus pharmacy has an insufficient selection of products that are only good for emergencies when students do not have the time to shop elsewhere. Many of its products are name brands and students are forced to pay more for medication and toiletries and cannot benefit from generic brands. The pharmacy at the UV is not much better than the one on campus.

The establishment of these stores and venues is imperative for students to truly enjoy and benefit from their experience at USC. The campus cannot be the only place students have to enjoy, and off campus venues would compliment the already wonderful weekday activities on campus.

So what is USC going to do about this? A ton, actually.

According to Kristina Raspe, associate senior vice president for real estate and asset management, USC is aware of these students’ needs. As part of USC’s Master Plan, the UV will open in 2014 with a full-service grocery store, like a Ralphs or Vons, and a large pharmacy like CVS or Walgreen’s. In addition, USC is considering opening a Trader Joe’s market because it would provide students with more grab-and-go meals and products.

The new UV will also have a bookstore and movie theater that specializes in art films like a Laemmle Theatre, Raspe said. It would differ from the Regal at L.A. Live because it would feature smaller productions as well as blockbuster films, although not necessarily on the first run. Raspe mentioned the theater would be “significantly” cheaper for students. Students will be able to watch movies and choose from a selection of different restaurants — both casual and formal — depending on the occasion.

In terms of small retailers, Raspe said USC would wait to decide which stores to put in the UV. She said stores are often “in one day and out the next,” and thus must be rented out closer to the opening date.

Other services or forms of entertainment such as a pool hall or skating rink are still lacking, but, with the restaurants, stores and theater coming to the new UV, students will have more to do off campus on weekends.

Thank goodness USC is finally in cahoots with its students and ready to implement changes that will directly affect them. Too bad I won’t be around to see it.

Danielle Nisimov is a sophomore majoring in public relations. Her column “On the SCene” runs Thursdays.

1 reply
  1. art curtis
    art curtis says:

    As a resident for over 30 years in the USC / North University Park neighborhood I have always been amazed at the lack of good retail services and non-fast food restaurants near campus where students could walk to. UCLA has affordable cinema’s, restaurant’s and even a Trader Joe’s just off campus and yet one of the most prestigious universities in the country (USC) has a pathetic offering for students who want something a little classier without breaking their bank account. The University of Washington which exists in a similar urban setting has a spectacular University Village Shopping Mall ( with retailers such as Eddie Bauer, The Apple Store, Jamba Juice, Starbucks and over a dozen cafes and restaurants plus dozens of retail outlets. The USC off campus retail experience pales in comparison.

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