Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama Continue ‘Pro-Growth’ Strategy

The Hub at Tuscaloosa is a six-story residential complex which will be built on Red Drew Avenue in Tuscaloosa. The Hub at Tuscaloosa is a six-story residential complex which will be built on Red Drew Avenue in Tuscaloosa. Core Spaces of Chicago

By Katherine Chatmon

The University of Alabama’s enrollment has nearly doubled in the past 15 years, from 19,633 students in 2001 to 37,665 students in 2016.

This upward trend is expected to continue as UA expands with various building projects projected to be completed by 2020. Housing Administration Associate Director Kimberly Sterritt said that the goal to reach 50,000 students is on track.

“The new Tutwiler building should be completed by 2020,” Sterritt said. “The new hall beside Lakeside is projected to be completed by Fall 2018.”

The new housing may benefit returning students who want to continue living on-campus.

“We wouldn’t be able to fit 50,000 students living on campus,” Sterritt said. “But I would like to see policies implemented that allows returning students to have an option with the increasing size of the freshman class.”

Al Spencer, vice president for economic development and public policy with the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, hopes the University continues its pro-growth strategy.

“UA is an incredible economic engine,” Spencer said. “Tuscaloosa is growing because of Mercedes and UA.”

The University of Alabama is the region’s top employer with 10,700 employees. According to the Chamber of Commerce, the students are fueling the economic growth of Tuscaloosa.

On-campus students spend an average of $257 a month shopping compared to $1,357 for off-campus students. The total student spending is an estimated $373 million, not including money spent on campus. Student spending allows the city to recruit more national retailers.

But how far can the University expand?

“I feel there will be a natural cap that will occur,” Spencer said. “If UA was unable to purchase Bryce, I don’t think we would have made it to this number of students.”

In October, the Tuscaloosa City Council unanimously approved two new apartment complexes to be developed. The first, located at the former site of the Fire Station No. 1 (2525 Sixth St.), will be a five-story complex with 84 residential units and 104 bedrooms. The second, The Hub at Tuscaloosa, will be six stories, with 485 bedrooms and a two-level, underground parking lot. It will be located on Red Drew Avenue between Sixth and Eighth Streets. 

“With this development, [development company] Core Spaces has embarked on and set the standard for the redevelopment of older, closer-in locations, and has increased the density of students living in a given location,” Chip Schell, Vice President of New Business said.

The projected development is set to be ready for the 2018 school year. 

Schell said there is a need to help manage all the traffic that comes with exponential growth.

“Redevelopment of underutilized locations will be critical to sustaining that growth and ensuring that Tuscaloosa remains a special place to students and long-time residents.”

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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.