Southwestern's New Student Residences Transform an Urban Campus
Imagine: Just steps from your last class of the day, you walk through the bustling plaza and pick up a fresh brewed cup of coffee in the Pearl Lounge. You take the elevator to your apartment: You're home. A glowing view of downtown at dusk through the tall windows showcases the city and campus while you get ready to meet your friends for a quick dinner in the Tea Room before an evening of lively discussion on criminal law in one of the complex's group study rooms.
For the first residents of Southwestern's new on-campus student residential community that opened on August 3, this scenario is now a reality. For Melissa Hanna, a first-year student in the three-year SCALE JD/MBA program, this residential arrangement "is a game-changer." Hanna says, "I am so excited to be living on campus. There are so many benefits, but at the end of the day, it's all about accessibility: having access to the professors, the library and the surrounding community. By eliminating my 1.5 hour daily commute, it makes volunteering in the community while keeping up with my studies much more feasible."
As Chair of Southwestern's Board of Trustees, Tom Hoberman is delighted that this extraordinary addition to the campus is already making a difference. "It has been a distinct pleasure to participate in the development of Southwestern's residential housing project beginning with an idea and simple paper rendering four years ago, to wood framework last year, and now this incredible building," he said. "This architecturally significant facility has fulfilled our vision of creating an exceptional living-learning experience for our students - yet another standout Southwestern accomplishment that will facilitate our students' legal education, training and development well into the future."
A True 'Living-Learning' Village
It was with students like Hanna in mind that The Residences at 7th, Southwestern's first on-campus student housing facility, was conceived. The unique design of the $22.7 million, 133-unit "living-learning village" complements the law school's landmark Bullocks Wilshire Building and provides inviting social space for the entire law school community.
"Our goal is to make students as comfortable as possible when they start law school," Dean Austen Parrish said. "These striking Residences do just that. They provide our students with safe, affordable and beautiful housing. The Residences also will be a place where students can mingle, study and learn together, enabling the creative conversations and exchanges that will help our students become talented lawyers and leaders."
Hanna's fellow SCALE student, Lawrence Mansour, has found that to be the case. "I couldn't think of a better complex to live in," he said. "The views are wonderful, the building is brand new, and the fully furnished apartments save students hundreds if not thousands in expenses. I was in complete awe when first seeing the complex, and the price made it even more attractive. The best part is it only takes me three minutes to go from my apartment right to my classroom - What more could you ask for, living in one of the busiest cities in America? "
The units can accommodate 153 students with rents starting at around $1,100 and averaging about $1,450, priced below comparably appointed apartment buildings in the downtown-adjacent area. Each apartment features a full kitchen, in-unit washer/dryer, a 42" high-definition television, complimentary basic cable and high-speed wireless internet, and secure digital key entry. Student Freddie Young describes the look of his new home as "ultra-modern and low maintenance, with plenty of spaces to tuck or store things away to prevent clutter."
Residential complex amenities include a student lounge with 65" flat screen TV, a business center, study rooms for groups of four or six, a barbecue station, a rooftop sundeck and numerous informal seating areas. The 170 reserved parking spaces beneath the structure include electrical vehicle charging stations. Views from apartments and common areas look out on the downtown skyline, the landscaped courtyard and the Bullocks Wilshire Building.
New resident Daniel Kadin is enjoying the amenities, particularly the rooftop sundeck, with its Greek island lounges, white walls and views of the city and the central courtyard several floors below. "There are tables where I can get some work done while also getting some sun and fresh air," he said. "It's a nice place to decompress and get a little change of scenery [right here]."
Designing a Student-Centered, Community-Sensitive Environment
Four years in planning, the project was developed by Southwestern in collaboration with Corsini Stark Architects, Matt Construction and Symphony Development. The design process included student and market surveys as well as visits to graduate housing complexes in California and New York.
"The Residences were created to meet the unique living and study needs of Southwestern law students," explained Janice Manis, Chief Operating Officer and project team leader. "Each residential unit was carefully designed to be move-in ready, featuring excellent lighting, practical layouts with marvelous views, complementary furnishings with low maintenance finishes, and state-of-the art, energy efficient appliances." The "green" building design is expected to achieve a LEED Platinum rating.
According to resident Niki Azim, the careful planning has paid off. "Living on campus has definitely impacted my quality of life," she said. "Everyone here feels at home and part of a community. It helps to stay motivated when you live with your fellow classmates who are going through the same experience as you are. I feel relaxed and balanced because I live on campus."
Architect Anthony Stark indicated that the Bullocks Wilshire Building influenced the design of elements such as "the linear, streamlined 7th Street façade that recalls the wonderful passenger vessels depicted in the iconic Bullock's Wilshire porte cochere mural, 'Spirit of Transportation.'" The project and property were also conducive to incorporating the Los Angeles tradition of a large central courtyard and other open air features. He said, "The walled building perimeter is purposely porous [with framed views] to allow the prevailing Pacific trade winds to naturally cool the courtyard and open corridor public spaces."
Stark's partner, Richard Corsini, explained that the surrounding environment was also an important factor. "The goal of the plan was to create a true academic community among the students and faculty while maintaining and enhancing the law school's public presence in a revitalizing historic urban district," he said. "We wanted the building to be bright and dignified, and to enhance Southwestern's inspiring, positive influence in the neighborhood."
An Anchor in Central Los Angeles
According to James Camp, Assistant Dean for Property Administration and Development, the entire project team worked closely with neighborhood groups and city agencies as the project moved forward. "It was a collaborative process from the beginning," he said. "We engaged every affected constituency that we could identify, internal and external, and did our homework. It didn't hurt that it was a great project that both reduced traffic by allowing students to live where they attend school and transformed a surface parking lot into an architectural building with a nice scale for the neighborhood. Everyone ended up enthusiastically supporting the project."
Dean Parrish added, "The Residences are part of our continuing commitment to the revitalization of this great Los Angeles neighborhood, and symbolic of the pivotal role our school and our alumni have played in the city for more than a century. We are very proud to celebrate the opening of our new student residences - a tremendous milestone in Southwestern's continued growth and development."
Melissa Siefer '79, whose daughter recently moved into The Residences, was extremely impressed by the "real campus feel" enhanced by the residential community. "We felt so comfortable about Lauren's living situation," she said. "Few law schools offer this enticing option. And while my own experience at Southwestern was positive despite much more limited surroundings, I thought about just how much better it will be for Lauren. For the first time, I found myself wishing I were back in law school!"