University Park Campus sports a fresh look for fall
Students returning to campus this week will find subtle and not-so-subtle changes, but little evidence of the dust and rubble that enveloped the University Park Campus (UPC) over the summer months.
Gone is the maze of temporary fencing crisscrossing Hahn Plaza; it came down a few weeks ago to reveal a lovely patterned-brick and textured-concrete square more in harmony with the neo-Romanesque style of USC’s signature buildings. All along Trousdale Parkway, benches invite passersby to linger. The work on the plaza was entirely cosmetic, part of a total upgrade of the hardscape and landscape on both campuses, according to Joe Back, associate senior vice president for campus development and facilities management.
“President Nikias has made a major push on beautification efforts,” Back said — efforts that also saw the planting of new trees, shrubbery and ground cover around the campus perimeter this summer.
Similarly, the exterior of Parking Structure X (PSX) was wrapped in a handsome brickwork façade, with trellis-like “green screens” to support climbing vines.
What had begun as a routine structural seismic upgrade turned into a full-blown beautification project with the recognition that the lot is located in a high-visibility area on UPC. Together with Doheny Memorial and Leavey libraries and the Von KleinSmid Center, PSX anchors McCarthy Quad, one of the campus’ major public spaces, Back said.
Several historic buildings were retooled and renovated over the summer, with sensitivity to their architectural and aesthetic roots. The charming old Joint Educational Project House was completely refurbished, with some of its elements restored to their original historical configuration.
“This project takes the house back a lot closer to what it was originally,” said Back, noting that the former residence of USC President George Finley Bovard had been much altered since USC purchased it in 1904.
King Stoops Hall was also reconfigured as the new home of the University Club. Construction was completed in June, and the dining room opened for business in July. The restaurant’s airy interior retains notes of its bookish past. The handsome 1923 brick-faced building had originally been a public library and later housed USC’s Education Library and then its East Asian Library.
Meanwhile the old University Club has been demolished. The site, adjacent to Town & Gown and the USC Gould School of Law, is being prepared for another major construction project — the future Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall. Groundbreaking on the interdisciplinary social sciences building is slated for Sept. 5, according to Kristina Raspe, vice president for real estate development and asset management.
Also demolished over the summer was the old YWCA Building, adjacent to the pay parking lot by the Pertusati Bookstore. The site is earmarked for the future Wallis Annenberg Hall, with construction to begin soon and an expected completion date of February 2014. The 90,000-square-foot building will house networked, media-saturated classrooms and laboratories.
In addition, several new buildings are making their debuts, perhaps none more eagerly awaited than the John McKay Center, directly west of Heritage Hall, which had a dedication ceremony on Aug. 21. Coaches and athletes began moving into the three-story, 110,000-square-foot facility last month.
“Everyone is really proud of that one,” said Back, noting that it will have “a huge impact on the academic services for the student athletes,” tripling the space of its former headquarters in Heritage Hall. The McKay Center’s basement level houses weight rooms, training and rehab facilities, and the football locker room, freeing up more space in Heritage Hall, which is itself slated for major renovation starting in January.
Nearby on Jefferson Boulevard adjacent to Fluor Tower, the Roger and Michele Dedeaux Engemann Student Health Center is almost finished. Work on the exterior wrapped up over the summer; the interior will be completed by December, with the opening slated for January, according to Raspe.
Far larger than the old Student Health Center, the five-story, 101,000-square-foot building will provide comprehensive services, including primary and urgent care, counseling and wellness, as well as specialty clinics in dermatology, orthopedics, allergy and gynecology. It is also the future site for the USC Oral Health Center and features dedicated space for occupational therapy and physical therapy. A small Faculty Staff Health satellite center will operate there, complementing services provided in the main downtown facility on Hope Street.
In the late stages of construction, too, is the third and final phase of USC’s Cinematic Arts Complex, with an expected completion date in February. The building will serve as the new home for the Interactive Media Division, which will include the Game Innovation Lab, as well as the Institute for Multimedia Literacy and the Interdivisional Media Arts and Practice PhD program or iMAP.
Students may also notice a new basketball court where the little-used Instructional Media Services building once stood. The hoops court was relocated from its former site on Figueroa Street, east of PSX. At that location, three new sand volleyball courts are being built to NCAA standards, with the possibility of two more down the road. Slated to be ready for use by mid-fall, the new sand courts will support the launch of a Trojan women’s sand volleyball team — one of the first in the nation, according to Back.
Among other upgrades, the EVK Restaurant and Grill got a newly remodeled kitchen and dining area, and the second floor of King Hall was renovated, with new administrative spaces for the Office of Student Affairs.
“Each of the last three, maybe four summers, have seemed like they were a little bit busier than the one before,” said Back, his desk piled a foot high with documents. “Construction is just disruptive. We get it. We understand that everybody would love it to be invisible and quiet. We don’t go into these things lightly. We try to execute them with as little disruption as we can and in as little time as we can. And at the end of the day, everyone values the results.”