Gateway set to open; some skeptical, some excited

The housing market at USC is about to get bigger with the imminent completion of University Gateway Apartments, and, though most other local housing companies say they don’t see much cause for worry, some are growing concerned.

Construction of University Gateway, a brand-new apartment complex on the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Figueroa Street that will house more than 1,600 students, began in spring 2008 when Urban Partners LLC saw the opportunity to expand the housing offerings around USC.

Before beginning the plans for the building, Urban Partners studied other apartment complexes around campus to determine what worked and what could be improved.

“We’re taking student living to a different level,” said Jason Meno, assistant general manager at University Gateway. “We want to set the bar, so other places will get up to that level.”

University Gateway aims to combine resident life with high-end amenities, offering facilities few other apartment complexes can match.

“I could really see this becoming the wave of the future,” said Daniel Silva, facilities director for University Gateway.

The complex offers both one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, but the one-bedroom rooms have already sold out.

Demand has been very high, according to leasing agent Aven Wright, but there are still some two-bedroom apartments available at a monthly rate of $1,064 per bed for a 12-month lease. The units available are all on the lower floors; the units on higher floors have sold out.

Wright said he thinks University Gateway is a unique concept in the student housing market.

“We’re completely centered and focused around students,” he said.

Parking is available either on-site for $150 a month or off-site at the USC Parking Center for $37.50 a month. For bikers, there are 800 bike-rack slots located in the garage.

The first floor of the building will be home to 16 different retail spaces. While the specifics haven’t been confirmed yet, Meno said University Gateway would like to have a yogurt shop, coffee shop, bank and pharmacy.

With Gateway’s launch around the corner, some other rental companies around campus are wary.

“We’re small, so we’re definitely concerned,” said Anthony Ramirez, assistant manager at Moraga Student Housing. “We have seen some dwindling in the numbers. I think this year we’re OK, but next year it’ll be worse once Gateway gets more established.”

Ramirez noted, however, that renting a house in the local area could be a more cost-efficient option.

Still, some other vendors said they don’t view Gateway as a threat.

“University Gateway appeals to a certain kind of student,” said Rebecca Slivka, director of marketing and leasing at STUHO Student Housing. “Our market is a little different. We have huge price variations, and we can accommodate most students financially.”

Shahid Nazir, manager at Nupac Apartments, echoed this sentiment.

“We are not in competition with [University Gateway]; they’re catering to wealthier students, and we’re mostly renting to international students,” he said.

Students are intrigued by what Gateway offers, but many say the cost will keep them away.

“We definitely need more housing, especially if [University Gateway] is going to have resources that we can actually use, like the shops,” said Mara Ragan, a sophomore majoring in communication. “It’s so expensive though, so I wouldn’t live there.”

Scott Cummings, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, agreed.

“I definitely think USC needs something like this,” Cummings said. He noted that there was nothing like Gateway in the immediate vicinity to campus but that it seemed too expensive.

Students who have already signed leases with University Gateway, however, are excited at the chance to try out a new kind of living experience.

“I’m living there next year because it’s much better than the other apartments around campus,” said Sarah Ames, a freshman majoring in performance popular music. “They’re pretty old, and [University Gateway] is brand-new. It’s really safe, and it has a gym, shops and a lot of other benefits right on-site.”