USC Village construction marks halfway point

USC Drum Major Chase Wagoner led the Spirit of Troy into the crowd, victoriously waving his hand in the air with a symbolic “Fight On” to formally begin the ceremony celebrating the USC Village construction project hitting its halfway mark Wednesday.

President C.L. Max Nikias spoke about the project — the most ambitious in USC’s history — which will increase the size of the campus by 30 percent. The architects who were present and honored at the ceremony, J. Peter Devereaux and Tania L. Van Herle from the Harley Ellis Devereaux Architectural Firm, aimed to embody a semi-gothic style that they created when designing the Wallis Annenberg Hall.

“After more than one million man hours of design and construction, the USC village has rapidly moved from capturing our imaginations to materializing our hopes for the future of this University but also for the future of our neighborhood,” Nikias said.

There will be 2,700 new student beds within nine residential colleges. Retail spaces will include a 30-thousand- -square-foot fitness center, a Trader Joe’s, restaurants and coffee shops such as a Starbucks, a Bank of America branch, a dry cleaner, a beauty salon and a bike repair shop. Nikias also mentioned how this will change the student living experience beginning in fall of 2017, when the Village is on track to open.

“It will reinvent learning and living, allowing USC to become a fully residential university,” Nikias said. “It will reinvigorate commerce and opportunity, allowing our neighborhood to become a fully realized destination for retail and employment.”

William Marsh, director of Capital Construction, added to the list of benefits of The Village.

“As an alumni here, this is going to be a terrific experience,” Marsh said. “It’s basically an expansion of the campus. You’re going to have a greater body of the students closer together. On campus, all of the dorms are kind of spread out, which is fine, but this will really create a bond for the freshman coming in, particularly with their involvement with each other and interaction with the upperclassmen, all being in this close environment.”

Contrary to rumors around school, The Village is not only freshman living.

“The only pure freshman building is the McCarthy Honors College, which [houses] 550 freshmen. The remaining buildings are all for upperclassmen,” Marsh said.

Besides its proximity to campus, The Village has many other benefits.

“Accessibility to the University is going to be very easy-flowing for the students living here,” Marsh said. “Having the retail function is a real bonus. To be able to have a room and walk downstairs into Trader Joe’s will be a great benefit for anyone living here. It should make their educational and living experience easier.”

Despite El Niño’s rain, the builders made schedule adjustments to stay on schedule.

“To remain on track, we have been tracking El Niño,” Marsh said. “This has been one of our biggest priorities, and we’ve been tracking it so much that when we have windows of opportunity to accelerate our schedule, we have. So, in essence, the El Niño at this point has actually helped accelerate our project.”

Vice President and Executive Director for Capital Construction Lloyd Silverstein commented on how surprisingly fast the Village has gone up, taking only 15 months so far.

“People on the other side of the construction fence have commented that [The Village] just suddenly appeared one day,” Silverstein said. “All of the construction you see here today, including the two-story underground parking structure and miles of foundation and utilities you can’t see, were all put in place in less than 15 months. That’s an amazing accomplishment by what is clearly the best team of construction workers in the city of L.A.”

Curren Price Jr., Los Angeles’s city councilman for District 9, applauded the construction workers and praised the improvements that USC Village will bring to the students and surrounding community. Congresswoman Karen Bass also elaborated on the improvements The Village has made.

“USC has been consistent in its commitment to make sure that the people who live in the area actually were able to work on this project,” Bass said. “Everybody knows the unemployment in the area, and so I think that contribution is particularly significant.”

The last structural steel beam — signed by many guests, administrators, donors, elected officials and construction workers — was lifted by a crane into the air with an American flag and evergreen tree on top. Then, the 30-foot, 12,700 pound spire was lifted to the top of the clock tower on the soon-to-be McCarthy Honors College, completing the highest point of The Village at 145 feet. As the spire was lowered onto the clock tower, the massive crowd of spectators cheered and clapped as the Trojan Marching Band played “Fight On” and confetti cannons blasted.

The Village will open in Fall 2017.