Tuesday, March 28

How the new $650M USC Village stacks up against Westwood Village

USC is constructing a $650-million University Village that will include five-story residence halls, restaurants, shops and a large recreational plaza. The university announced the plan last year and estimated it will be completed by 2017. (Aubrey Yeo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

USC is constructing a $650-million University Village that will include five-story residence halls, restaurants, shops and a large recreational plaza. The university announced the plan last year and estimated it will be completed by 2017. (Aubrey Yeo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Westwood Village has been a historical part of UCLA since its opening in 1929, a community USC’s upcoming university village will attempt to establish in only three years, Westwood officials said.

USC is constructing a $650-million University Village that will include five-story residence halls, restaurants, shops and a large recreational plaza. The university announced the plan last year and estimated it would be completed by 2017.

Both Westwood Village and USC’s village will offer immediate access to housing, restaurants and retail shops for students, but Westwood Village transformed from a shopping center to a movie premiere capital, before settling into the quiet town it is now. USC will own its university village, but Westwood is independently owned.

The USC Village will replace the recently-demolished shopping center on Jefferson Boulevard and Hoover Street, previously the school’s only off-campus activity center. The new village will consist of a large recreational plaza surrounded by Collegiate Gothic-style buildings, which will include housing for 2,700 students, as well as a Trader Joe’s grocery store, drugstore and fitness center, according to the USC Village website.

Andrew Thomas, executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association, also known as the BID, said he thinks USC’s University Village is an impressive piece of work and a great amenity for the school.

“There has been a demand for something like this at USC for a very long time, and the students will get a lot of use out of it,” he said.

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, an urban planning professor and USC alumna, said she remembers the previous village as an enclosed and limited space. She added she thinks USC’s village plan will be an improvement compared to what existed before, but still prefers the open setting of Westwood Village.

“The USC Village plaza will be one concentrated mega-development, while Westwood Village has been developing organically since the 1930s,” she said.

Loukaitou-Sideris added she thinks Jefferson Boulevard, a wide street with very heavy traffic, will divide the university and its village, while Westwood does not have any such dividers. She also said there are more safety concerns at the USC Village than at UCLA’s because the crime rate in South Los Angeles is higher than in Westwood.

As a safety measure, only students, staff, faculty and registered guests will be allowed to enter the USC Village complex between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., according to the Los Angeles Times.

Some members of the surrounding community opposed the USC Village plan because they think it will cause gentrification, or displacement of low-income residents.

Paul Ong, a UCLA urban planning professor, said the construction of the USC Village is part of a larger change to South Los Angeles over the past decade.

“It is leading to an upscaling of the area,” he said. “Some displacement is direct, and people are squeezed out. For example, low-income households (are excluded) because of higher rents.”

Chris Tilly, professor of urban planning and director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, said he thinks gentrification comes with the territory for development projects in low- to moderate-income areas.

“There was a way to (incorporate) the community as well, and USC has chosen not to do that,” he said. “Those who are most active in the surrounding community believe the university is not being a good neighbor.”

Tilly added he thinks universities’ interests override those of the resident community in college towns.

“Universities are the 800-pound gorilla, and communities typically get steamrolled with decisions like these,” he said.

Thomas added the gentrification effect did not took place in Westwood because it has never been a low-income area.

He said UCLA does not dominate all decisions in Westwood because the university does not own the Village, unlike the USC Village. Thomas added USC will not have to deal with competing interests because it owns the village, so restaurants, shops and amenities can be tailored to the student interests.

Thomas said he thinks the USC Village is modeled after Westwood, because the village has served as an example for other shopping districts in the past, such as The Grove and the Santa Monica Promenade.

He added the USC Village will always be different from Westwood Village, because Westwood was not manufactured as a college town.

“It’s real and authentic,” he said. “What you see in Westwood developed completely organically over the years.”

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  • Brendan Bellina

    Thanks for an interesting article. I frequented the now demolished food court north of USC so I know that area quite well and have a few comments to add.

    The USC Village is replacing what was an outdoor pedestrian shopping mall, food court, and grocery that had been in gradual decline for over a decade and USC had been using as near-campus space for staff. USC owns the property and has an interest in making certain that the businesses that are there serve the interests of the students. Other than the grocery the neighborhood didn’t really support what was there before (not for years anyway though I did more than my fair share of supporting the Baskin-Robbins) and USC has committed to filling a percentage of the new jobs associated with the USC Village with community locals which will be good for the community. I know that their community outreach program is very active and they do take community interests into account when planning any construction. They pride themselves on being a good neighbor.

    The statement that Jefferson Blvd is a separation between USC Village and USC while there is no such separation between Westwood Village and UCLA is inaccurate. The Jefferson and Hoover intersection has a panic light and thousands of students cross there every day now coming from fraternity row and other housing north of campus. It is actually a smaller intersection than Le Conte and Westwood which has a similar light. Overall the traffic on Jefferson is likely busier, but in my experience the traffic congestion in Westwood during peak hours is worse than anytime at USC unless there is a special event at the Coliseum or other nearby venue.

    I know that USC has increased their police presence north of campus over the past few years as well as restricting public access to campus at night, changes enacted a few years ago after an isolated on-campus shooting of a non-USC student by another non-USC student. That they are implementing similar access restrictions with the USC Village is prudent and certainly in the best interests of the students and the community. As a private institution they have the ability to reasonably limit access to their property, which is something UCLA as a public institution has little choice over. They do not restrict access during the day.

    There are other large Universities with nearby low income neighborhoods who have established these kinds of controlled villages within the past few years and they seem to have been positive developments, the University of Notre Dame being one. It will be interesting to see how this development affects the downtown overall, especially with the other developments in that area.

  • Dana Corrough

    My summary of the article…
    Here’s what USC is doing, that’s very interesting but this is why it’s not as good as Westwood Village, it’s still dangerous over there, here’s why USC is a bad neighbor, Westwood Village is still better. This article reeks like a bad PR piece. USC and the adjacent neighborhood have been growing organically together since 1880. Reality…USC has lacked campus adjacent student centric retail, dining and other commercial businesses for decades and the village is a solution to that problem. Additionally, the village will provide direct relief to the working class residents of adjacent neighborhoods and help lower housing prices in the local housing market by finally providing USC students with enough USC housing. The student impact on the local market has been an issue for decades. Important fact conveniently left out of the article. Most importantly, USC owns the land. The school has every right on the planet to expand the size of its campus without being accused of being a bad neighbor and spurring gentrification. The mayor has praised the project, local residents have praised the project and the majority of local residents feel it will benefit the community. Never mind that USC conducted public meetings and community outreach for nearly two years to gather input. USC is giving first priority to local residents for jobs at Trader Joe’s and other retail stores in the village based on community input. I guess the mind of a Bruin feels that any progress at USC is bad news and that it’s just easier to shape a tired narrative that USC progress is bad for everyone involved in the local community. I guess I just expected more from a UCLA student.

  • Anon Ymous

    Wow. It’s not a surprise this was posted the week of the USC-UCLA football game… what a sad piece of one-sided, rivalry-driven drivel. At least get the facts right. The Daily Bruin should be ashamed it allowed this to be published.

  • Scott

    This article is written by an individual who clearly has never frequented the area in which the University Village at USC is located(AKA: “The UV”). The UV prior to renovation was an old crumbling center with many failing businesses, and it is now poised to not only add a beautiful extension to USC’s campus, but also provide increased student housing while at the same time offering students healthier food options including a much needed Trader Joes. Also, the extension of campus will not be blocked off to the surrounding neighborhood, it is said to create thousands of jobs in the local community and will be open to the public for food, shopping, and other activities.

    This article is inaccurate and biased. I feel I learned absolutely nothing important from it. We expect more from you Daily Bruin.