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Tuscaloosa named among top college towns

Tuscaloosa has been named as one of America’s 100 Best Communities for Young People. CW | Pete Pajor

Samuel Yang

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Livability, student-to-resident ratio, cultural offerings, school presence and large employers can help define a college town’s success. Best College Reviews, which compiled a list of “The 50 Best College Towns in America,” has considered those criteria and put Tuscaloosa at number 48.

The ranking designated Tuscaloosa as one of America’s Promise Alliance’s “100 Best Communities for Young People,” citing UA athletics, the diverse economy and established nightlife.

For residents still in school like freshman Marlow Durbin, who is originally from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Tuscaloosa offers a convenient mix of rural and urban culture.

“It’s a great balance between having the space you need in a medium-spaced town without being crushed in by a city or just being in the middle of nowhere,” Durbin said.

Chapel Hill was ranked number 7 on Best College Reviews’ list, but Durbin said he saw similarities between his hometown and new home.

“They definitely fall in the mold of the town and the school being interconnected,” he said.

Chapel Hill also plays host to a historic basketball rivalry, Durbin said.

“You definitely see the town light up for that, probably in a similar way to how Tuscaloosa lights up around a football game,” he said.

Students of Chapel Hill also can’t live on campus and own a car, but a free mass transit system helps compensate, Durbin said. The city also has thriving parks and cultural activities.

“You can probably step away from the school a little more,” he said. “The one thing that sticks out to me is here, it’s either university or commercial.”

On the commercial side, Tuscaloosa also offers a diversified economy that Best College Reviews noted includes Mercedes-Benz and BF Goodrich Tire plants and health care companies.

 Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama directory produced and provided by Chamber Director of Communications and Marketing Robin Jenkins noted that the region has been recognized as one of the best places in the nation to start and grow a business.

“Business and industry in Tuscaloosa County continue to thrive on diversity.  With The University of Alabama, Stillman College, Shelton State Community College, two large public school systems and a number of private schools, education is big business in Tuscaloosa County,” she said. “Health care is also huge.”

Homegrown businesses from the area have gone on to great success and continue to be fostered at The Edge, where the University and city collaborate to incubate businesses.

“It consists of almost 900 square feet of office and shared space that is leased to early stage companies and provides a wide menu of services to both tenants and the local business community,” she said. “The Edge is an example of the potential Tuscaloosa has as an innovation center for West Alabama. A new $9 million facility on 10th Avenue is planned, as the Federal Government has awarded the City of Tuscaloosa the funds to construct the facility.”

Local businesses also contribute to the nightlife noted by Best College Reviews. Jon Alford is general manager of the Houndstooth Sports Bar, which was mentioned specifically in Best College Reviews’ write-up of Tuscaloosa.

The list made mention of the Houndstooth’s designation as Best College Sports Bar by Playboy magazine. Alford said Sports Illustrated has similarly hailed the establishment.

“Nightlife in college is pivotal to a student,” Alford said. “These kids need to blow off some steam from being in class all week.”

When he was a student, he said, unclean dive bars with broken restrooms were the norm.

“The nightlife has gotten better. Some of it is more upscale,” he said. “It offers students some better options.”

Houndstooth provides a wide array of drinks and a safe atmosphere, Alford said.

“And of course, Tuscaloosa being Titletown, we have the Alabama events,” he said. “There’s always something Alabama here showing 24/7.”

Alford is a UA alumnus who has lived in Tuscaloosa for 17 years.

“I think Tuscaloosa is one of the best cities in America,” he said. “It’s got that small-town [feel] but it’s a big enough city that it has the amenities that you would want.”

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Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894
Tuscaloosa named among top college towns