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USC Has Big Plans for Retail at Mixed-Use Village Development

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, October 28, 2011, at 12:42PM
Village at USC Rendering USC

Village at USC rendering showing broken-up massing for upper-floor residential units atop street-level retail.

Despite being separated by a mile-and-a-half of Figueroa fast food and auto dealerships, USC and Downtown have long been intertwined. Many of the school's students live in the central city, and many more have made their way Downtown to patronize the bars and restaurants that have led the last ten years of revitalization.

The university's $1 billion Village at USC project may soon give Downtown residents a reason to follow those students back down to the school's campus.

Replacing the school's dated University Village shopping complex, the mixed-use development is slated to include 2,500 units of student housing, a 150-room hotel and 400,000 square feet of office and academic space. Environmental study was completed this past summer, and the privately-funded project will soon head to City Council for planning approval.

Especially given the impending opening of the Expo light rail line, which starts Downtown and stops two blocks away from the Village site, it will likely be tenants of the planned 350,000 square feet of retail space that offer the biggest draw for Downtown residents.

With involvement by shopping mall developer Rick Caruso—a USC board member—and his Caruso Affiliated, the project is unlikely to be lacking in retail connections. Kristina Raspe, USC's vice president for real estate development and asset management, told attendees at a Thursday community forum that her office is working to attract retailers like H&M and Forever 21, and is "very focused" on Trader Joe's, whose president is a USC alum.

That could be good news for Downtown residents eager for closer shopping options, but bad news if retailers decide USC is as close as they care to get to Downtown-proper.

Raspe does not believe retailers see the market that way.

"Our project doesn't compete with the Downtown retail or restaurants because we're at a much lower price point than what they have," she explained. "60 percent of our students are on financial aid. They're at the exactly same purchasing point as the surrounding neighborhood."

So would Trader Joe's consider stores both at USC and a few miles up the street?

"It's a different trade market for grocery," said Raspe. "I don't see it as a competing choice for Trader Joe's."

Of course, Raspe doesn't speak for the grocer, and Downtown residents may soon need to settle for a train ride instead of a walk to the market.


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