Casa Barilla opened its doors for guests at the University Village on Monday. The pasta restaurant is the 18th opened storefront in the Village, and currently, of the 350,000 square feet of retail space in the complex, there is space for 35 stores.
Yet while students are in their final weeks of the fall semester, a number of spaces have yet to be open. Nine storefronts have a brand or vendor but are in various construction and preparation phrases, while eight have generic “coming soon fall 2017” signs in their windows.
“There are only a few tenant spaces remaining for lease,” said Brian Wilson, executive director of USC Real Estate Development and Leasing, to Annenberg Media in an e-mail.
Annenberg Media could not confirm the number of retail space available from USC at the time of publication.
“I think [the stores] could be opened way faster,” said Eddy Xing, a junior studying business and psychology. “I remember seeing the lists of restaurants that were going to open, and there was … more than 10 at least. Right now the ones that are actually available for people to dine at are [limited to] two or three.”
Wilson confirmed that five restaurants are planning to begin serving at the Village in the next two weeks, right before winter recess.
As of Nov. 27, Casa Barilla, Trejo’s Tacos, the Baked Bear, Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop, Sunlife Organics, CAVA and Starbucks are the cuisine options open at the Village.
For Stefano Albano, the CEO of Barilla Restaurants, this opportunity will bring more guests to sample his pasta.
“My biggest hope, I think I’m witnessing it right now — I want to see a line, I want to see empty plates, I want to see people smiling and enjoying the food, but I also want to see people that tell us how we can improve,” Albano said.
He said the USC affiliation was crucial in selecting a location for his restaurant.
Actor Danny Trejo’s namesake restaurant, Trejo’s Tacos, opened its doors on Sunday, following USC’s Thanksgiving break. Like Casa Barilla, Trejo’s Tacos reached out to USC for space when it heard about the development.
Ash Shah, one of the co-owners of Trejo’s Tacos and a USC alumnus, said it was pretty easy to get everything up and running for the business once they settled all the contracts with the university, which took about eight weeks.
“We’ve gone through [opening a restaurant] so we know the drill,” Shah said. “The first time we did, we didn’t, and it took a lot longer.”
He thinks the reason there are still so many unopened storefronts is the complexity of the process, which requires clearances through the city of Los Angeles, as well as meeting USC’s business requirements. He noted it could be overwhelming for a new business owner.
From the businesses’ side, even once the parties agree they want to take the space it still takes a couple of months to negotiate a contract, Shah said.
USC has very specific guidelines for the facade of the building, according to Shah.
“The more businesses that are open, the more people that are going to come here,” he said.
Aaron Hobson, a junior studying industrial and systems engineering, hopes to see it completed over winter break.
“It’s possible they’re taking into consideration noise and not trying to work late hours when there are students in the dorms but if there’s nobody there I feel like it’s a reasonable task to complete all the stores in progress by the time spring semester comes around,” he said.
Correction: Because of editing errors, an earlier version of this article included Village Cobbler, an alteration and shoe repair store, in a list of eateries open at the Village as of Nov. 27, and misquoted Ash Shah, one of the co-owners of Trejo's Tacos, as stating that "the slow process is unusual for such a large development." The text was revised on Nov. 28 and Jan. 8 to correct the errors.