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College housing has never looked so nice

Housing is moving away from the dorms and cracker-box apartments of old as part of a national trend. At USC, tanning beds, hot tubs, HD televisions and a club room are all on the amenities list. But it doesn't come cheaply.

September 04, 2011|Roger Vincent

Odds are slim that the cast of "Jersey Shore" will ever enroll at USC. But if they could, TV's legendary sybarites would find that gym-tan-laundry is just the beginning at a new luxury apartment complex near campus.

Nearly every detail at West 27th Place is upmarket, from the fountains, landscaping and custom outdoor light fixtures to the granite countertops and big-screen HD television sets in every unit. There are also televisions in the well-appointed gym, along with a professional-grade Sundazzler -- a walk-in tanning booth that resembles a science-fiction movie prop.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries, the East Coast's answer to In-N-Out, is building an outlet on the ground floor. Other restaurants are set to follow.

Making margaritas? The kitchens include ice makers. Revelry can spill over to the billiard room, swimming pool and a hot tub that is supposed to hold five people.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday, September 05, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Luxury student housing: A Sept. 4 Section A article on upscale college apartments said the Camino del Sol apartment complex is at UC Riverside. It is at UC Irvine.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, September 11, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Luxury student housing: A Sept. 4 article in Section A about upscale college apartments said the Camino del Sol apartment complex is at UC Riverside. It is at UC Irvine.

"It's usually either two or 10" in the tub at a time, quipped David Hilliard of Symphony Development, the owner of the complex.

Those who remember college housing as spartan dormitories or crowded cracker-box apartments may be seized with envy -- or the urge to give denizens of West 27th Place a sermon on how spoiled they are. Get over it. Students today expect more from their college experience, including all the comforts of Mom and Dad's sumptuous home, according to developers who are rushing to fill the growing demand for deluxe digs.

At UC Riverside, the year-old Camino del Sol complex on campus boasts a 24-hour fitness center, billiards, a hot tub, barbecues and a resort-style pool with a sun deck and cabanas. University Gateway, which opened last year just outside USC, is "almost like a youth-oriented luxury hotel," developer Dan Rosenfeld said.

"It's a national trend," he said. "There is competition among schools, and USC has to provide a competitively attractive student environment."

The $55-million West 27th Place complex is a model for campus housing, said Henry Cisneros, the former U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary who is now executive chairman of CityView, the Los Angeles investment firm that helped fund the project.

USC and UCLA have made strides in recent years to outgrow their former images as commuter campuses where most students left at the end of the day. Both now draw more students from around the world, some of whom pay tuition of more than $40,000 a year and want housing that meets their refined tastes. Old dormitories are being refurbished and new units that house fewer students are being built to the latest environmental standards.

"Students come on campus tours and want to know where they are going to live all four years; where they will work out, where they will sit with their friends," said Kristina Raspe, who is in charge of real estate development at USC.

"The cinder block dorms I lived in do not meet current demands," she adds.

USC students who could afford it have always tended to live in style -- away from campus. Lodging within walking distance has traditionally been cramped, well-worn and pricey. Figueroa Street, the campus' eastern boundary, has for decades been populated by automotive repair shops and fast-food joints.

West 27th Place is a sharp upgrade. The seven-story, 161-unit complex on Figueroa , with its lush sidewalk landscaping, tiled roofs and Spanish Colonial architecture, is evocative of the nearby landmark Automobile Club of Southern California headquarters.

Sound-deadening doors and windows seal tightly to keep out traffic noise. That's not to say the place is always quiet -- it is student housing, after all.

"It gets a little loud, but it's much quieter than the dorms could ever be," said Jaques Dubois, a graduate student from Connecticut. He likes the building's proximity to campus and amenities such as the full kitchen.

"The washer and dryer," he added, eyes widening with enthusiasm, "is huge."

There are also study rooms on each floor, a room to park 350 bicycles, hard-wiring for the Internet and satellite TV, plus in-room and communal Wi-Fi, said Hilliard, president of Symphony. Recreation areas include a club room with a pool table and a big-screen television where management will host game-day parties. If a resident gets sick, management will deliver a get-well package with chicken soup and ginger ale.

It doesn't come cheaply, of course. A one-bedroom unit at West 27th Place, which can house two students, may cost more than $2,500 a month, more than twice the county's median price. A four-bedroom, two-bath unit shared by eight students starts at $680 apiece, or more than $5,400. Parking is extra at $150 a month, but judging by the garage many can afford it. Among the student vehicles there on the first day of school were late model Mercedes-Benz, BMWs and sport utility vehicles.

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