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U. of Southern California Plans $900-Million Retail Redevelopment

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Colleges thrive as much on their environs as they do on the liveliness of their own campuses. College towns and the neighborhoods around campuses can be legendary—think of Madison, Wis., for example. For those institutions not blessed with organic college towns or student-friendly districts, administrators have sought to create them. John Fry, who recently left Franklin & Marshall College for Drexel University, built a career on doing that, both at F&M and at the University of Pennsylvania.

Penn’s development project has been influential at the University of Southern California. For some time now, USC has planned a $900-million redevelopment of retail areas north of the campus. The Los Angeles Times, in an article about the 35-acre project, points out some of the concerns that neighbors have: Students have already been displacing residents, and while the redevelopment is designed to stop that trend, activists are skeptical that it will work.

Retailers are concerned that the redevelopment will push out their businesses in favor of franchises or other big-name stores. “The current low-rise University Village shopping center has a busy supermarket and food court, along with a Denny’s, Starbucks, a cinema, and other services but also has some vacancies,” the Times says. “Merchants complain that USC has done little lately to promote or maintain it, and they worry they could be priced out by higher rents at the new center.”

Nevertheless, local officials seem to support the plan. Permits for the project, though, could take years to be approved.   

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