The Trojan Marching Band, led by its Trojan warrior in full regalia, led hundreds into the medieval Tuscan village.
You know, the type of medieval village with a Starbucks, Trader Joe’s and lodging for 2,500 students.
“Let’s follow them!” a woman shouted from the crowd.
USC Village, the university’s massive development at the corner of Hoover Street and Jefferson Boulevard, officially opened to the Trojan community Thursday on the same day as the annual new-student convocation.
Not only is it the largest development in the university’s history, it’s also the largest South Los Angeles has ever seen, university President C. L. Max Nikias said.
“This project has been a labor of love for all of us,” Nikias said. “We built this village to show our enduring commitment to our exceptional students and our beloved neighbors.”
Making its mark
With six buildings spread over 15 acres, the $700 million project increases the university’s University Park footprint by nearly a third. Residential college suites are on the upper floors, with retail on the ground level. There’s also an A-framed dining hall, with custom stained-glass windows and gothic-style seating.
“I think it’s truly amazing. It’s brand-new and we’re the first ones to experience that,” said Shane Mitchell, a sophomore studying political science. “We went to Target and lines were out the door.”
Mitchell and his friends were excited about the new retailers. There will be 25 in all, the majority of which are restaurants, such as Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop, The Baked Bear and a couple with celebrity ties, such as Trejo’s Tacos and Wahlburgers.
“I hope Marky Mark comes for the grand opening [of Wahlburgers],” junior Vrej Hamayam said of the rapper-turned-actor-turned-restaurateur.
The crowd was also in awe of the housing. “It’s like a resort,” Mitchell said.
The residences are in suite style — most come with a kitchen — and feature shared common areas, including outdoor lounges where students can study al fresco or just look down at the Central Piazza below. There’s also a 30,000 square-foot fitness center.
A major commitment
The investment shows USC’s embrace of on-campus living as an integral part of the educational experience. That was also evident last year, with the kickoff of new residential housing crests and the inaugural Residential College Cup, competitions throughout the year that build camaraderie.
“It’s a rare opportunity I think for a university. It’s nice they invest in their students,” said Katia Ellati, a junior, noting how convenient the village is. “It’s cool that the people around us, not just the students, get to use it. It’s bringing the community together.”
Besides being a boon for the Trojan community, it will benefit South Los Angeles as well, said Councilman Curren Price. He represents L.A.’s 9th district, which includes USC.
Many of USC Village’s retailers are touching down in South L.A. for the first time, including Trader Joe’s, Target and trendy Sunset Boulevard eatery The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker.
“Thank you for understanding the key to the future of this university is in its connection to its neighborhood,” said Antonio Villaraigosa, who was Los Angeles mayor when the project was approved.
To support local residents, USC is giving the city $20 million toward affordable housing nearby and built a $16 million firehouse down the street. During construction, more than 20 percent of the workers lived within five miles of the site and the Village will offer about 800 jobs. There’s also a community room that will be open to the public for local programming and events.
Besides the plethora of things to do at the Village, there’s also a new photo opp, which might give Tommy Trojan a run for his money.
A 20-foot-tall bronze statue of Hecuba, Queen of Troy, was revealed to fanfare, with cardinal and gold streamers falling through the air. At her base is a tribute to diversity and the studies of various disciplines.
“I thought it was amazing, especially because she’s a woman,” Ellati said.
Her friend sophomore Lauren Young added, “It’s showing the true diversity of USC.”