Square Feet: U.S.C. Expands in a ‘Neglected’ Neighborhood, Promising Jobs and More

Square Feet: U.S.C. Expands in a ‘Neglected’ Neighborhood, Promising Jobs and More

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Though South Los Angeles lies near the city’s booming downtown and the ascendant neighborhood of Inglewood, it has seen little development in past decades. The area was hit by bouts of racial violence in the 1950s and 1960s, setting off a “white flight” that was followed by an exodus of African-Americans after the city’s 1992 riots. Now mostly Latino, South Los Angeles’s two City Council districts are the poorest in the city.

“You had high rates of poverty, dropouts; the infrastructure was bad,” said Curren Price, a city councilman who represents a South Los Angeles district. “Trash in the alleys, streets neglected.”

By contrast, U.S.C.’s student population is markedly wealthier, and more diverse. Many of the schools that send students to the university are elite institutions like Beverly Hills High School or Harvard-Westlake, and annual undergraduate tuition (about $50,000) is almost double the median household income in the City Council district that is home to the campus ($26,300).






University of

Southern California





The development began as a priority of C. L. Max Nikias, the university’s president, who introduced the campus expansion plan in 2011.

To get the community and city on board with USC Village, the largest of his proposed projects, he put forward an unusual public-private partnership. Though Dr. Nikias had fielded proposals from eager private developers, he decided instead that the university should make a greater financial investment.

“A private developer will come and go,” Mr. Nikias said in an interview in May. “We, as a university, are here to stay.”

Among the commitments the university made was a $16 million fire station built on university land and at no cost to the city, as well as a $20 million pledge to Los Angeles’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which is meant to offset concerns about how the addition to the neighborhood could drive up the already prohibitively high cost of housing. The university also promised that 30 percent of workers employed for the project would be from the local area.

Sudents can focus on their school work in study rooms.

Credit
Carlos Gonzalez for The New York Times

A new fire station was built when the original had to be removed to make way for the campus expansion.

Credit
Carlos Gonzalez for The New York Times

The clock tower at the McCarthy Honors College overlooks the central plaza of the campus extension.

Credit
Carlos Gonzalez for The New York Times

The courtyard inside the McCarthy Honors College. Each residential college at the USC Village offers a courtyard, each with a different layout and color scheme.

Credit
Carlos Gonzalez for The New York Times

Those promises helped win over local leaders, and the City Council unanimously approved the USC Village plan in 2012.

As a result, of the 4,000 construction workers who helped build USC Village, 38 percent were from within a five-mile radius. Many of them have gotten work with other contractors in the area after their various parts of the project were finished.

The project’s labor agreement also includes stipulations for preferential hiring of military veterans, the formerly incarcerated and “disadvantaged” workers, including minorities, people with disabilities and those with a history of homelessness.

“We saw it as, we’re going to do a project where we offer the local community an opportunity to get into our trades,” said Ron Miller, executive secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, an umbrella group representing 48 labor unions. “That’s a well-paying career. It will allow them to stay in the area, maybe afford to buy a house, send their kids to school.”

The project has been built to fit in with U.S.C.’s overall aesthetic. Low-slung red brick buildings with a Gothic exterior are grouped around an open public square and a clock tower. Tree-lined avenues lead into the center.