Recent changes question identity of the Strip

The University and city of Tuscaloosa as a whole have undergone rapid changes in the past decade. Enrollment has increased from 20,000 in 2000 to over 36,000 as of fall 2014. Expansion can be seen everywhere.

There are new dorms, recreation centers, parking garages and constant construction on campus. There are huge new apartment complexes, duplexes and other kinds of housing options off campus. Older houses are consistently being torn down in favor of modern town homes and duplexes for students. Most of these changes are welcomed by the city. The added restaurants, businesses and new housing developments add jobs and make the city more attractive.

But eventually expansive growth reaches a crossroads: continuing the growth versus preserving the history of the city. The history is what keeps UA alumni coming back to the city years and decades after they graduate. Keeping the graduates coming back is crucial to the economic success as well as the overall attractiveness of the city. There is a fine line and the University and city must tread it very carefully in order to keep the city attractive for years to come.

Recent developments have brought attention to one of the most iconic areas of Tuscaloosa: the Strip. So far, the Strip has remained relatively unchanged during all of the expansion – maybe a few new restaurants, bars and stores but no drastic changes have taken place. The identity of the Strip remains intact and keeps graduates coming back to a place they are 
relatively familiar with.

But recent developments, including the relocation of the Locker Room in favor of a CVS and the closing of Jupiter Bar and Grill raise serious questions about the future of the Strip. These changes alone will not transform the Strip into something else, but they raise the question: Are these changes outliers in the long history of the Strip, or are they the direction that the Strip is headed?

The relocation of one of the most iconic clothing stores in Tuscaloosa is certainly a cause for concern. The way it happened is even more troubling. Two weeks after The Locker Room celebrated its 50th anniversary in November 2014, the owner was sent a fax informing him his lease was being cancelled and the property was being sold to CVS. He received no forewarning. This change and the way it happened drastically favors growth 
over history.

The unanticipated closing of Jupiter Bar and Grill is also very shocking. Jupiter was a premiere music venue in Tuscaloosa that had hosted nationally touring bands. Students and Tuscaloosa residents were left with nothing but a post on Jupiter’s Facebook page that has since been disbanded. The lack of transparency is troubling and people are left to assume that Jupiter was bought out in another move that favors growth over history.

Obviously, the Strip will continue to evolve and keep up with the times. No one expects things to look exactly the same as they did 10, 20 or 30 years ago. But the Strip has an identity that has remained for decades and if things continue to go the way of The Locker Room and Jupiter, the historical appeal and identity of the Strip could be lost forever.

Jackson Poe is a junior majoring in finance and accounting. His column runs biweekly.

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