Tuscaloosa, AL
Comprehensive Plan

It’s been said there’s a first time for everything. And for the hometown of the University of Alabama, one of its “firsts” was a comprehensive plan to guide community growth and change for years to come. There were multiple reasons why such a plan was needed: An EF4 tornado that decimated 12% of the city, a population boom driven by growth at the University, notable demographic shifts, and a global recession, just to name a few. So, the Planning NEXT team was more than happy to lead Ninigret Partners, Clarion Associates, Kimley Horn, and the City of Tuscaloosa in developing a playbook to address city challenges and changes.

A first of its kind effort for the city

Framework created Tuscaloosa’s first comprehensive plan. It updated, integrated, and reconciled many plans and studies into a single city-wide policy guide. The effort was a major shift in the City’s approach to land use planning, zoning, and infrastructure development. To undertake this major effort, Planning NEXT facilitated a 30-member steering committee, with two subcommittees focused on housing (workforce and student housing) and lakes (development, recreation, and environmental issues around the city’s three reservoirs). The first public workshop called Forum on the Future brought over 300 people together to share ideas and shape the plan’s direction.

Addressing unique housing market challenges

A major component of the analysis was the development of a Comprehensive Five-year Affordable Housing Study. As the University’s enrollment has grown and its football program has gained popularity, there has been an influx of development catering to relatively affluent students and short-term rentals (game-day houses). This development has been reshaping the character of existing neighborhoods and reducing the supply of affordable (workforce) housing. Team member Ninigret Partners provided an understanding of the housing market, forecasted demand, and identified opportunities and potential strategies to encourage more quality rental and for-sale housing.

Commitment to update development regulations

The City committed to overhauling its zoning and land development regulations as part of the Framework process. The Team began work on the code rewrite once the comprehensive plan was adopted in early 2021.

Tags

Project Type: comprehensive plan
Community Type: university community
Client: City of Tuscaloosa
Services: comprehensive planning, public engagement, social media and online engagement