Community Clashes Over New University Village
Local residents, business owners, and students butted heads Tuesday at the L.A. City Hall in a meeting to discuss USC's plan to demolish the University Village at Jefferson and Hoover.
The plan, which was approved by the Los Angeles City Council in 2011, lays the groundwork for a massive redesign of the dilapidated mall, featuring 350,000 square feet of commercial/retail space and approximately 2 million square feet of faculty and student housing. The mall's redesign is an attempt by the USC administration to provide a social and commercial space immediately off campus, something the University currently lacks.
"It'll provide an alternative from the shops that are on Figueroa, a place to shop, a place to eat next to campus," said USC student Alec Jaffe.
There is a concern, however, that the construction of the new mall will raise local rent prices and push out local residents. Punam Bhakta, who works with Jumpstart at USC, pointed to the elimination of the affordable grocery chain Superior as a prime example of making the neighborhood unlivable for current residents.
"We work with about 140 kids in the community," said Bhakta, "and knowing that there's a possibility that they might get rid of Superior and some of the resources that are available to the community, I'm kind of concerned about how that will affect the families we work with."
USC has pledged to contribute $8 million toward expanding affordable housing in order to offset the impact to the community, but some residents and students are still skeptical about the way the University is using its clout.
"We're kicking out local businesses and we're trying to change the neighborhood," said USC student Matthew Del Muro.
"It honestly disgusts me that we're able to do that."
The retailers that would be featured in the mall are currently in flux, and construction will likely not begin until mid-2013 at the earliest.