10 Years of Recovery: City Zoning Looks a Whole Lot Different Nowadays
This story is airing as part of WVUA 23’s “Faces of the Storm: 10 Years Later.” Watch it on WVUA 23 at 7 and 9 p.m. April 27, and at 8 p.m. May 1. The show will be available on our YouTube channel beginning April 28.
It’s taken 200 years to make Tuscaloosa what it is today. But 12% of all that work wound up wiped out in a matter of minutes on April 27, 2011.
The EF4 tornado that barrelled through the city left a path of death and destruction more than a mile wide. More than 5,000 homes and apartments were affected; 2,500 damaged and 1,600 seriously damaged. The rest? Gone.
With so much of the city affected, the city took residents’ suggestions and implemented citywide policy and code changes through the Tuscaloosa Forward Plan, adopted on April 24, 2012.
“We identified some areas where we could have done some things differently, and that’s to be expected through any change code process,” said Tuscaloosa Director of Planning Ashley Crites. “You grow as a city and you grow as a community and your needs change. You look at what happened in Alberta and the homes that have been constructed, the commercial developments that have happened.”
Ideas from the plan included a walking trail along the tornado’s path, revitalizing established neighborhoods, ensuring businesses were rebuilt according to high standards, increase the appearance and functionality of major corridors and rebuild damaged infrastructure.
Major damage along 15th Street, 10th Avenue and University Boulevard meant former neighborhoods in those areas were destined for a new purpose. Streets full of older rental homes filled with college students became the Shoppes at Legacy Park at the intersection of McFarland Boulevard and 15th Street.
Across McFarland Boulevard, an older shopping center housing a Hobby Lobby, a Big Lots and other retail stores became the new home of Aldi’s, a Texas Roadhouse and other restaurants, and hundreds of student apartments.
In Alberta, University Boulevard is now home to places like The Gateway and the Alberta School of Performing Arts.
On 10th Avenue, the Rosedale community was reconstructed, and the Edge Incubator and Accelerator offers entrepreneurs a place they can learn and grow.
Crites said the new zoning that came with Tuscaloosa Forward took the city in a whole new direction.
“It was different,” she said. “It was something that the city of Tuscaloosa was ready for based on community involvement, but also something that over time needed to be adjusted as we realized what our markets really needed.”