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

Strip East: An idea whose time has come

By Tray Smith

Senior Columnist

Students have returned to a new year at The University of Alabama and, in many ways, a new campus. The Presidential Village off Jack Warner Parkway is now housing members of a new freshman class and some new greek houses have opened while even more are under construction. And perhaps most importantly, campus now includes all of the Bryce property, which will accommodate future growth.

Most of this growth will occur on the east end of campus. Indeed, the University has already planted its flag far in the east, with the recently opened Capstone College of Nursing standing just off McFarland Boulevard. The area in between that building and the traditional core of campus, stretching all the way back to old Bryce, offers plenty of room to house new residential facilities, recreational space and University buildings.

However, as soon as students step off our glistening campus and into the surrounding area, the east end starts to look a little less promising. Far removed from the cosmopolitan conveniences of TCBY, Publix and Quick Grill, the east end offers two gas stations, a tire shop, and a usually empty band practice field. The only business attractive to students is Newk’s Café, which is shelved between an Arby’s drive-thru and a Soviet-style office building.

The University, busy in its attempt to purify and commercialize the existing Strip, should be more focused on what’s really important to students – creating a new one. The area between the law school campus and University Boulevard on the east end of campus is the perfect spot.

While the University is obviously focused on its own development plans, it is important to make sure that nearby property doesn’t remain in disrepair. After all, the University has already acquired a number of buildings on the existing Strip, because administrators realize that the more welcoming and safe the area looks, the more likely potential recruits are to chose Alabama, and the more current students will be able to enjoy the town.

Bars on the east end of University Boulevard, for instance, would make it easier for the students who live there to go out without having to drive. Improved sidewalks and better lighting would make a trip to Rite Aid as easy as a trip to Publix is for students on the west end of campus. More room for more restaurants could allow for the return of local establishments, like Lai Lai, that have been chased from town over the past few years.

All of this development, in turn, would make the area look more student-friendly, more lively and more welcoming to visitors.

Of course, it isn’t going to completely lure students away from the existing Strip, and it shouldn’t. The Strip offers many attractions for students that aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. But the current Strip was developed during an era when the University was much smaller, and students were much more concentrated.

Now, with 32,000 students living across an expanding footprint, it is simply not enough.

Already, off-campus housing is moving east. Just this month, the East Edge apartment complex opened near the law school. More developments are sure to follow, and they will likely offer more comfort and convenience than the older apartments at the other end of campus.

With students on and off campus heading toward this new pioneer, the only thing we are missing is a vibrant neighborhood to compliment these new developments. The only thing we are missing is a strip in the East.

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