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$1 billion USC development project signed after years of negotiations

USC's $1 billion development will include new student housing facilities and a retail center.
USC's $1 billion development will include new student housing facilities and a retail center.

What will be the largest development in South Los Angeles has just been signed, sealed and set in motion.

The $1 billion USC Village project has been on the drawing board for years as the university negotiated with L.A. City officials, community members and stakeholders over the fine print. This morning, officials met at the South L.A. school to make the final plans official.

The Village project will add more than three million square feet of new development for USC and the surrounding area. About two-thirds of that development will be devoted to housing for 5,000 students and about 200 faculty members and graduate students.

The additional campus housing is intended to answer community concerns that USC students in need of housing drove up rents in the local area, which sometimes forced out longtime residents. 

The USC Village project is expected to create 4,000 construction-related jobs and another 8,000 permanent jobs when development is finished. They includes positions at the new retail center on Jefferson Boulevard that will have a grocery store, fitness center, shops and restaurants.

"This development is the result of a collaborative process to improve the quality of life for USC students and nearby residents," said Councilman Ed Reyes in a statement. "This ambitious project will spur economic renewal in South Los Angeles by providing much-needed jobs, affordable housing for residents, a grocery store and restaurants." 

According to USC, housing is the central goal of the redevelopment plans. In addition to the new dorms, USC will build 250 family apartments for students and faculty and contribute $20 million to protect affordable housing in the area. 

“Not only will the USC Village profoundly enrich our University Park Campus, it will be a tremendous boon for our surrounding neighborhoods, and for all of Los Angeles,” said USC president C.L. Max Nikias. 

But not everyone thought USC's new development would be the best thing for the neighborhood. Last summer as negotiations continued over the school's proposed plans, critics said it didn't do enough for families who have lived in the area a long time.

"Instead of addressing poverty its displacing poverty," said Paulina Gonzales, Executive Director of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE)—a community organization involved in the USC redevelopment project.

Citing the 2010 census, Gonzales said in July there had been a 20 percent decrease of families in the area around USC—a shift she attributed to a lack of affordable housing.

USC's executive director of local government relations David Galaviz, said in July that the university will offer incentives to students to live in university-provided housing complexes.

The L.A. City Council voted in favor of the USC Specific Plan last December, but today's ceremony made it official. The university now begins the long process of securing building permits for the USC Village project—and when that's done, construction can start.