Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

City Council changes zoning in Alberta to allow for student housing


The Tuscaloosa City Council might have paved the way for more student housing in Alberta City and the former site of Big Lots after a unanimous vote on Tuesday, July 24. The action changed zoning rules to allow four unrelated people to share a residence in the area still struggling to fully recover from the EF4 tornado that struck Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011.

Currently, these areas are designated MX-5, which means that buildings can be up to five stories tall and include residential and commercial properties.

District 5 Councilman Kip Tyner, who represents Alberta City, said the change to mixed-use areas might benefit Alberta City’s residents.

Tyner said students could be part of Alberta growing back in an extraordinary way as it rebuilds after the April 27, 2011 tornado.

“The way the University is growing, it’s going to naturally move towards Alberta,” he said. “We’ve got to attract students.”

Despite the unanimous vote, residents who addressed the council Tuesday all opposed the change.

Joan Barth, director of Tuscaloosa Neighbors Together, said neighborhood groups are upset about changes to the Tuscaloosa Forward plan, which created the MX-5 zones this spring. Zones near the University of Alabama already allow up to four unrelated people to live in a unit. The council’s action last week extends this high-density housing to other parts of the city.

The wording of the new MX-5 zones did not clarify how many residents were allowed in a single unit, and Barth said the Council’s change wasn’t in the spirit of the Tuscaloosa Forward plan. She urged the council members to form a citizens’ advisory committee to help them make changes in the future.

Dan McGuire, speaking on behalf of Alberta Citizens Together, said he is not opposed to student housing, but thinks the high-density housing is not good for families in this area. He mentioned that one zone was across from a new elementary school.

“You’ve taken one fell swoop…without looking at other options that might be doable,” he said. “Where are the families?”

The Council’s action could benefit developer Robert W. Buchalter, who unveiled plans in June to develop the former Wood Square Shopping Center into an $80 million combination of retail space and student housing buildings at 15th Street and McFarland Boulevard.

Tyner said he understands the opposition from community members, but said student housing and a possible hotel project could benefit his area.

John McConnell, Tuscaloosa’s director of planning and development services, said Wood Square and the other MX-5 areas are designed to look like villages where people can live and shop. The plans allow developers like Burchalter to draw students to the area “to provide the dollars that students will spend at the businesses that we hope to bring back there.”

McConnell said Wood Square could be built within the next year.

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