University of Southern California officials were joined by counterparts from city and county government on Monday to break ground on the new $650 million USC Village project.

The USC marching band along with students, faculty and some nearby residents were also on hand to celebrate the construction of the 15-acre project that will include student housing, shops and restaurants. Officials expect completion in late 2017.

“This is the largest development project not only in the history of USC, but in the history of South Los Angeles,” said USC President C.L. Max Nikias. The project will replace the old USC Village shopping center at 32nd and Hoover streets, just north of the campus.

University officials said the 1.2 million-square-foot project will offer housing for 2,700 students, a new grocery store, and there will be 100,000 square feet of additional retail and dining space along with entertainment venues and various shops. Other facilities will include a drug store/pharmacy, a fitness center, a community room and expanded outdoor parking. Officials believe that thousands of jobs will be created and billions of dollars could be pumped into the South L.A. economy from opening construction on through permanent operation.

The Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation last month donated an additional $30 million for a new Honors Hall.

The new sightlines will include tree-lined entrances leading to a central plaza surrounded by “al fresco” dining, cafes, a fountain and—new for the University—a female counterpart to Tommy Trojan called “Hecuba, Queen of Troy.” There will be a cluster of five-story residence halls and a clock tower designed in “Collegiate Gothic” architectural style.

“We’re not merely building ‘buildings,’ Nikias said, “we are building for our own time, the best and most timeless kind of human community.”

There are reportedly no public subsidies involved in the new residential/retail project. USC provided more than $40 million in community benefits (those facilities available to neighborhood residents), including up to $20 million to an affordable housing fund managed by the City of Los Angeles.

The University will upgrade Jefferson Boulevard and fund construction of a new fire station, other roads around the campus, a law clinic, a small business advisor and even an ombudsmen to report back on how the new facilities can best serve the mostly working-poor residents who live in the vicinity.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (Second District) believes the new USC Village can tie together both “economic development” and “economic justice” by supporting local labor and affordable housing. “This is about an investment in the human infrastructure of this community,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Break ground and fight on.”