Lupe Garrido’s walk to the podium was the last stage in a journey from South Los Angeles resident to parent leader of USC’s flagship neighborhood academic enrichment program to proud supporter of a historic project.
Speaking to a crowd of hundreds in the Galen Center Founders Room at the USC Village Appreciation Dinner on April 2, Garrido thanked community members for their participation in multiple USC Village community meetings and City Hall hearings over the past year.
Parents, residents and business and civic leaders turned out repeatedly to express their needs and show their support for USC Village. The student housing and community-serving retail project is expected to create 12,000 jobs while changing the face of the university and South Los Angeles.
“Taking time off work is nothing compared to what USC has already given our children and what it is doing for our community,” Garrido said. “I wish we could do more.”
Garrido’s son, Daniel, a senior at USC, is a graduate of the Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI), a seven-year program that offers college preparatory tutoring on the USC campus. He was awarded a full scholarship to USC. Daniel’s sister, a senior at Foshay Learning Center, one of the USC Family of Schools, is following her brother’s footsteps through the NAI. Their mother is president of the initiative’s Parent Leadership Board.
Following Garrido’s keynote, Thomas S. Sayles, senior vice president for University Relations, expressed his appreciation to the community. In both English and Spanish, he thanked council members, labor, business and community groups, and the many residents who supported the project.
“I feel so very fortunate to have this job, to work with all of you and to have an opportunity to continue to make this community what it deserves to be and what it is rapidly becoming,” Sayles said.
City Attorney Carmen Trutanich was among the civic leaders in the audience, along with Jackie Dupont-Walker, president of Ward Economic Development Corp. and chair of the USC Specific Plan Community Advisory Committee, Michael Banner, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Local Development Corp., and Belinda Jackson, executive director of the Expo Center.
The celebration closed with a musical flourish, courtesy of the USC Trojan Marching Band.
The appreciation dinner came six days after USC President C. L. Max Nikias and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a signing ceremony to mark the formal approval of USC Village. The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously in favor of the project in December.
The vote cleared the way for USC to redevelop large parcels of university-owned land over at least the next 20 years. By far the biggest project will be the renovation of University Village, a small and dated shopping center across campus on Jefferson Boulevard.
The new USC Village will feature a town square for the university and the community, with more than 2 million square feet of community-serving retail, student housing, hotel and academic space.
Most importantly for neighbors and students, USC Village will include a full-service grocery store, many shops and restaurants, and up to 3,000 new student housing beds (in the first phase, out of a total of 4,038 over 20 years), which are expected to relieve pressure on rental units in the surrounding area.
“USC has always had a special relationship with its neighboring communities — working hand in hand, side by side, and standing the test of time,” Nikias said.
“This project comes with a $40 million package of benefits that will have a lasting impact on this community,” Villaraigosa said. “Under the agreement, USC will also provide $20 million for affordable housing.”
Craig Keys, associate senior vice president of USC Civic Engagement, added: “The benefits of the project to local residents will include the provision of an impactful range of economic, educational and community service activities.”
David Galaviz, executive director of USC Local Government Relations, said: “Throughout this entire process, we placed a very high value on engaging all levels of community stakeholders. We knew that in order to move this project forward, we needed to engage early and often.
“Going forward, we need to continue to collaborate with long-term supporters, listen and follow through on numerous aspects of this transformative project,” he added.
Councilwoman Jan Perry ’77, MPA ’81, whose district encompasses the USC campus, said the vote ushered in a new era for the region and “represents the largest private investment in the area to date.”
Councilman Ed Reyes, who also led the city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee, added: “This project gives a sense of optimism for our community and will enhance the quality of life for thousands and thousands of Angelenos.”
For more information on the new USC Village, visit village.usc.edu.