Tuscaloosa, AL
Comprehensive Plan

Planning NEXT is currently leading a multidisciplinary team helping the City of Tuscaloosa through a process to create a new comprehensive plan and overhaul its land development regulations. Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama (UA), has been the fastest growing of the five largest cities in the State over the past two decades. Since its previous land use plan was prepared in 2009, the community experienced an EF5 tornado that destroyed 12% of the city, significant population growth largely driven by growth at UA, notable demographic shifts and a global recession which has changed the context for economic development.

A first of its kind effort for the city

This effort, known as Framework, will create Tuscaloosa’s first comprehensive plan. It will update, integrate and reconcile many plans and studies into a single city-wide policy guide. To help with this process, Planning NEXT is facilitating 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 reserviors). 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 Five-year Affordable Housing Study. 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. As UA’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.

Commitment to update development regulations

As part of the Framework process, the City has committed to updating its zoning and land development regulations. Tuscaloosa’s zoning code was last updated in 1972. The ordinance is cumbersome and no longer reflects best practices of modern planning and zoning techniques. Once the comprehensive plan is adopted, the zoning code rewrite will address such issues and develop new regulations for the city to reflect the policy direction set forth in the new comprehensive plan.


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