A Changing Educational Legacy

The University of Southern California’s development team is working to accommodate a shifting student population

The communal, mixed-use Village at USC is part of the first phase of the school's new 20-year master plan, which will help provide living space for more national and international students.

At a Glance

Los Angeles



Research and higher education

University Endowment
$3.5 billion

Economic Output
$4 billion

Founded 30 years after California became a state and located just southwest of the bustle of downtown Los Angeles, the University of Southern California (USC) has long been a prestigious centerpiece in the Golden State’s most sprawling metropolitan area. For decades, Angelinos and citizens of nearby communities have driven in to take classes at the institution, and its 226-acre campus has grown to accommodate 17 professional, graduate, and undergraduate schools housed in dozens of buildings. In recent years, though, the school has risen in prominence in the national and international landscape of higher education, drawing more students from out-of-state and around the world—all of whom need places to live.

According to Kristina Raspe, the school’s vice president of real estate development and asset management, USC’s transition from a commuter-oriented school to a more residential university has created a constant, ongoing need for facilities development and improvement. “Today’s students want to live adjacent to the university and experience all that it has to offer on a 24/7 basis,” she says. In response—amid the university’s various other real estate initiatives—the school has instituted a 20-year facilities-development master plan, which was approved by the university’s board of trustees in 2009. The program will create new spaces where students can gather, which will come on top of other structures the school’s already been working on.

The 1.5 million-square-foot Village at USC, which sits on 14 acres of land, is part of the first phase of the massive master plan. “The Village is located on the site of an old shopping center that was originally built in the 1960s,” Raspe says. “In planning the Village, we knew we needed quality and affordable student housing as well as university- and community-serving retail space, so we planned for a mixed-use development, which includes 250,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and 3,000 beds for graduate and undergraduate students.”

Designed by Boston’s Elkus Manfredi Architects to correspond to the Italian Romanesque architecture of the USC campus, the Village will be outfitted for LEED Silver certification, and the school fully expects the structure to contribute significantly to the local economy. “The annual direct and indirect economic output of the university totals around $4 billion.” Raspe says. “When the master plan and Village developments are done, we expect that number to be $5 billion.”

In addition to the Village at USC, the school is also close to completing the $57 million, 100,000-square-foot Engemann Student Health Center, and it recently opened its new 200,000-square-foot Ronald Tutor Campus Center. Both structures are designed to correspond to LEED specifications.

“The Engemann Student Health Center was an exciting project for us because we delivered it utilizing the design-build method of project delivery,” Raspe says. “We were able to shorten the project schedule by over six months, and the budget was $8 million less than what we originally anticipated due to the collaborative efforts of the design-build team.”

In keeping with USC’s community consciousness, construction of the Village will create 4,000 area jobs, and the finished structure will generate an additional 8,000 permanent jobs.

Designed by HKS Architects and built by Hathaway Dinwiddie, the Engemann Student Health Center is a five-story structure that houses student clinics, a community dental clinic, and other university and community services. It’s designed for LEED Silver certification, but USC forewent official certification. “We don’t always go through the formal LEED certification process, in order to save cost, though we design all of our buildings to be LEED-certified,” Raspe says. “Obtaining the actual certification is something that we do on very public buildings, like the LEED Gold-certified Ronald Tutor Campus Center.” The latter building serves as the primary student center for the entire USC campus, providing meeting and convention space, food service, and other student-centric amenities.

When determining future development and direction for campus facilities, USC looks to such projects. The school not only takes university-body demand into account; it’s also considerate of its neighbors. “We are concerned with providing necessary services for our students, faculty, staff, and community, not meeting sales numbers or typical development indicators of a project’s worth,” Raspe says. “We are an educational, nonprofit institution, so our decisions are driven by what is best for the university and its surrounding community.” ABQ