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Old 11-28-2009, 09:10 PM
 
Location: West Central Indiana
4 posts, read 17,834 times
Reputation: 12

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I realize several threads have addressed this general topic, but it seems they always get hijacked, and at some point the central questions don't really get addressed, at least not very thoroughly.

Sooooo, here goes.

My wife and I (two young children, too) are considering leaving a large University in an otherwise small college town in the Midwest and taking positions at UA. We have lived in the South before (nearly eleven years in the Raleigh-Durham area), and are therefore not entirely ignorant of (in fact, enjoy, in many respects) Southern culture, cooking, literature, hospitality, etc. etc.

The above said, over half of my friends (and most of my family) react with horror when I tell them that we are seriously considering making this move. The general reaction is: "too hot, too backward, and, it's the 'Deep South!'" My general reaction is, "Well, yes, and so what? I don't believe the South in general or Tuscaloosa in particular have a monopoly on bubbas. Moreover, there is such a thing as air conditioning."

Now, to be honest I have spent a grand total of 48 hours in Tuscaloosa. We will make at least one more follow-up visit as a family before making any final decisions. But I was struck by the charm of the campus and the vibe of the city.

What am I missing? Yes, I expect summers to be hot. Probably somewhat hotter for a bit longer than in Raleigh-Durham. And I know all about water bugs (had them in NC, too) as well as fire ants. So more "horror stories" about these things is really not all that helpful.

What are the positives? What are the negatives?
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Old 11-29-2009, 10:56 AM
 
5,870 posts, read 8,063,223 times
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The general reaction is: "too hot, too backward, and, it's the 'Deep South!'" My general reaction is, "Well, yes, and so what? I don't believe the South in general or Tuscaloosa in particular have a monopoly on bubbas. Moreover, there is such a thing as air conditioning."

A sense of humor is very good for starters:>)

My initial reaction six years ago - where is the airport?

Let's keep Tuscaloosa/Birmingham a secret so the "general reaction" will keep on living with movie lore and hearsay. It may keep them away. Well, at least until you give some of it away and curiosity will kill the cat or have them come visiting.

OK, public transportation is inexistent, hospitality is well and alive, UAB has a great arts program at Alys Stephens, schools for little people are fairly good, the German bakery in Tuscaloosa is a thumbs down in my book, grocery stores/farmers' markets/inexpensive restaurants are all over, taxes are as reasonable as it gets. It can get miserably hot and humid during the summer, mosquitos are part of the Alabama Airforce Reserve, cockroaches can be controlled (check with the local Extension Office; these guys are great), you will need two cars but no down coats.

We had lucrative opportunites with relo to TX and WY last summer but decided to stay. After 16 or so moves that says something about the quality of live and people in this area.
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Old 11-29-2009, 09:06 PM
 
Location: Alabama!
5,023 posts, read 10,875,907 times
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Sorry you have gotten only 1 response, but we have almost nobody here who currently lives in Tuscaloosa...several of us are former students or graduates of UA, but that's different from living there as a full-fledged, mortgage-paying adult.

Weather is somewhat similar to Raleigh...summers are a little hotter, but winters are milder - almost no snow. You might get a dusting once or twice a year. Hot summers, but you've got wonderful Lake Tuscaloosa in which to cool off.

I can't give you a list of positives or even recommendations on neighborhoods, but generally speaking Northport has the best public schools and the nicest newer neighborhoods, although I understand the area toward Moundville, near Shelton State Community College, is upcoming. Tuscaloosa proper has some nice neighborhoods and some fantastic historic homes. Schools are greatly uneven...many send their kids to private schools (Tuscaloosa Academy, I believe, is a top one). Yes, most of those are church-related.

Tuscaloosa has very little in common with Raleigh-Durham. Yes, a portion of the population is highly educated, but a portion is barely educated. Atlanta is not the "big city focus" of the region; Birmingham is. In fact, although Tuscaloosa has some nice shopping, you'll be going to B'ham for those major shopping trips.

Outside Tuscaloosa is either farmland, catfish farms, national forest, coal mining, or just vacant land sitting unused because it's either not worth the effort to farm, the farm family is getting subsidy money from the government NOT to farm, or it belongs to big companies holding it for possible coal mining or pulpwood tree farming.

That said, the presence of thousands of young people at UA, Shelton State, and Stillman College keep the area crackling with energy. Mercedes has sparked a number of private manufacturing firms. There's a good bit of back-and-forth between UA and UAB (UA at Birmingham) and the other colleges in B'ham. The whole area is one of Alabama's major economic engines.

I would not mind at all living in T-town!
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Old 11-29-2009, 10:25 PM
 
Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
234 posts, read 444,433 times
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Hey Goose Flute, I currently live in Tuscaloosa, I attend the University.

Yes, it is very hot here, very hot. That's probably the only thing I can't stand about Tuscaloosa, the weather. I much prefer the weather up in the Tennessee Valley

Anyways, Tuscaloosa is one of those places where you just have to learn how to live. Once you do learn how to live here, it's easy and a very nice place to call home.

Recreation

PARA (Parks and Recreation Authority) is definitely one of the best parks and rec entities in the entire state. They're constantly improving their facilities and building new ones. There are numerous places around the city to go hiking (which I do very often).

Lake Tuscaloosa
Lake Nicol
Lake Harris
Black Warrior Riverwalk

Those three are some of my favorite places to go. They hiking and adventure you endure can be anything from VERY strenuous to a mild family stroll.

The various parks are great assets and the city does a great job taking care of its history and showing off it's strong points.

If you're really into exercising and working out, I'm sure that PARA offers some great programs and facilities. If you intend on becoming part of the faculty at UA, you should have free access to the University Rec, which is a great facility IMO. I go there 6 days a week, so I can tell you that it's a great place.

Of course, if you just want to go on a nice jog at night, the University's campus is a pretty nice, and safe, place to do it. You get to take in a lot of scenery and time seems to really fly by. I know from experience...

If you're looking for somewhere to picnic, there is definitely no better place than the UA Quad during the spring. The grounds people of the University to a great deal of work, and I do mean a GREAT DEAL of work, during the winter to prepare the Quad so that it is just bursting with green grass and beautiful tress in the spring. The most adequate way to describe the Quad during the spring is a "green oasis.'

Education

I wouldn't say that the Tuscaloosa city schools are spectacular, but they're not bad. A large amount of the city's students go to private schools that actually do have good programs. There is also an IB World School (if you don't know what it is, a simple Google search will explain) at Central high school, so they city does offer an elite education if a student is bright enough. Tuscaloosa Academy and ACA (American Christian Academy) are the best choices for private education. Though, I would personally side with ACA, since I have family that actually attends there.

And of course, you have the three big higher ed schools in the city. U of A, Stillman, and Shelton are good schools. Obviously, UA is the big one, and is definitely one of the best in all of the South. The student population is approaching 30,000 and the facilities are constantly being upgraded, renovated, and expanded. Of course, new ones are also being constantly built. I love it here, and not just because of football. The school is a great place to attend and has definitely been the great experience of my life. I only applied to one college, and that was UA, so that should say a lot.

History

Tuscaloosa has a wealth of historical features. Capitol Park is a really nice place. It contains the ruins of the old Capitol building, back when Tuscaloosa was the state Capital.

The UA campus also has a great deal of history invested in it. Foster Auditorium with the Civil Rights Movement, Bryant Denny Stadium for obvious reasons, The Quad, President's Mansion built in the 1830s, and three other buildings on campus that survived the fires of the Civil War. It's nice to go to the front steps of Gorgas Library (the main library) and just sit there and relax on the Quad.

The area has been inhabited continuously since at least when the first European explorers came to the area in the 1500s, so there's no doubt that the city is full to bursting of historical content.

Downtown

Downtown has been one of the places that the city has been focusing on.

This part of town has been the site of numerous revitalization efforts. Most recently completed was the Bryant Drive Street-scape Project that landscaped Paul W. Bryant Drive from Greensboro Drive to Hackberry Lane.

Currently under construction is a HUGE revitalization effort on the western part of the CBD. New parks, fountains, parking deck, city hall expansion, and a new federal courthouse are all a part of this. Not to mention the street scraping that is being done along University Boulevard in this area.

Public Transit

Public Transit is definitely not Tuscaloosa's strong point. The University has a pretty good bus system that has been improving. But, the city itself has a weak bus system. Basically you will need a car. This is definitely one of those details that you'll have to learn if you live here. Traffic gets pretty bad at rush hour and on the days surrounding gamedays on campus. As long as you know which roads to avoid and the back roads to your house, you're OK. Basically, you just have to learn how the road system works. Traffic may be terrible, but it's definitely predictable, and they city has made it possible to get anywhere in the city without taking a major thoroughfare.

Other transit

The city itself no longer has scheduled commercial service at Tuscaloosa Regional Airport. The closest airport with scheduled flights is of course Birmingham.

Interstate access is pretty good. It doesn't take long at all to get to Birmingham, which is where you'll find a lot of good shopping.

Shopping

All in all, Tuscaloosa's shopping scene has been getting a lot better in the past few years. A new shopping center recently opened on McFarland Boulevard (a street you'll grow to hate if you don't learn how to navigate it), called Midtown Village. Tuscaloosa now actually has some nice stores. It's gotten to the point where you really don't have to drive to Birmingham or Hoover to go shopping at some nice stores. But, you'll still have to drive to the Birmingham area if you want to go shopping at places you'd find in Atlanta, Nashville, or Charlotte.

Overall Quality of Life

Overall, Tuscaloosa is a very nice town. Looks can be deceiving in this town. You drive through it, and it appears kinda worn and torn, but it's only a look of character.

It surely has its rough edges, just like every city in America. But, driving through it and living in it, you'd never know that you're living in a town with nearly 100,000 residents. Basically, you have the big city services, but not any big city feel.

The city doesn't make an amazing first impression, but ask anyone who has gone to school here or lived here, and most will tell you that it's been a great experience.

Last edited by sedriskell; 11-29-2009 at 10:40 PM..
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Old 12-04-2009, 05:46 PM
 
289 posts, read 360,438 times
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I think sedriskell covered the main points.

Tuscaloosa is smaller than the Raleigh-Durham area. RDU probably has more in common with Birmingham. In fact your current home town (if it's what I think it is) is probably has more in common with Tuscaloosa than RDU does.
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Old 12-14-2009, 09:14 AM
 
Location: West Central Indiana
4 posts, read 17,834 times
Reputation: 12
Thanks to all for the thoughtful and helpful replies! My impression when I visited T-town last month was that it is/was a scaled down version of the Raleigh-Durham area. And this is not all a bad thing--traffic in the RDU region had grown to be a horrendous problem by the time we left. I suspect that this is hardly an issue in Tuscaloosa.

We have looked into private schools and if we make this move will seriously consider Tuscaloosa Academy.

I have to confess, I like the South. I know it's not for everyone but I rarely if ever meet a rude or unfriendly person below the MD line (at least not until I get to Miami). Many people, my own family members included, have a view of the South that dates back to the 1950s-60s, Jim Crow, and George Wallace (never mind that the state where we are from probably had more KKK members per capita then any other in the 1920s, elected a KKK governor, and had the last known public lynching of young black men in the Northern United States.)

Thanks to sedsrikell in particular for the detailed and thoughtful response!
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Old 12-27-2009, 01:12 AM
 
Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
234 posts, read 444,433 times
Reputation: 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by Goose Flute View Post
Thanks to all for the thoughtful and helpful replies! My impression when I visited T-town last month was that it is/was a scaled down version of the Raleigh-Durham area. And this is not all a bad thing--traffic in the RDU region had grown to be a horrendous problem by the time we left. I suspect that this is hardly an issue in Tuscaloosa.

We have looked into private schools and if we make this move will seriously consider Tuscaloosa Academy.

I have to confess, I like the South. I know it's not for everyone but I rarely if ever meet a rude or unfriendly person below the MD line (at least not until I get to Miami). Many people, my own family members included, have a view of the South that dates back to the 1950s-60s, Jim Crow, and George Wallace (never mind that the state where we are from probably had more KKK members per capita then any other in the 1920s, elected a KKK governor, and had the last known public lynching of young black men in the Northern United States.)

Thanks to sedsrikell in particular for the detailed and thoughtful response!
You're welcome

Haha, though, I have to say, don't underestimate Tuscaloosa traffic. It is terrible during rush hour... McFarland and 15th Street are awful during rush hour, and forget about getting anywhere within an hour after football games.

Just don't be surprised if you get stuck in traffic.

Once, I was on my way out of Tuscaloosa, on my way to Decatur. I had to get on the interstate, so I took McFarland. It took me 45 minutes to get from campus to 20/59.

Basically, you just have to learn the roads and know your alternate routes. If you do that, you're golden.
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Old 12-29-2009, 12:29 PM
 
3 posts, read 11,242 times
Reputation: 11
I have been in Tuscaloosa nearly 20 years. I am originally from the pacific northwest. It was a big culture shock when I moved here. I didn' t know there were so many edible parts on a pig. The town is ok, close enough to b'ham and atlanta to go shopping and it has some nicepark and recreation areas. The job market isn't too great right now but if you have a guaranteed job moving here wouldn't be bad. The schools are ok, some are obviously better than others. Verner has a great reading program for the elementary students. Plenty of activities for young people, with good theaters, bowling, parks and sports activities. Housing can be pretty high in some parts of town, but as you get out of town a little way, the prices get reasonable. People are pretty nice in general, some are rather unworldly and stuck in their ways but with it being a "college town" there is a lot of very interesting and versatile people that you can meet. There is a very poor public transportation system and other than the UA area, things are pretty spread out. A car is a must as you will probably have to walk several miles in order to catch any type of public transportation outside of the downtown area.
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Old 12-31-2009, 10:29 AM
 
1 posts, read 7,328 times
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Hi
I was wondering if anyone goes to University of Alabama? We are from Chicago and my daughter is thinking of going there? We will be doing a campus visit in March- is the area there safe? Are there alot of tornadoes there? Any information any one can give me would be helpful. Thanks.
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Old 12-31-2009, 08:00 PM
 
Location: Outside always.
1,517 posts, read 1,291,929 times
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Hi,

My son is a freshman at UA, and he wouldn't go anywhere else. There have been no safety issues that I have heard about. He has several friends that are girls that live on campus, and they have not had any trouble either. We are from a very small town, and so are his friends and they all love it. I am sure your daughter will too.
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