When you are new to college, the best thing about living on campus is probably the ease with which you can find food/beverages/people that cheer for the same football team that you do without having to get in your car and look for any of it. If you find a job on campus, too, then you’ve really got it made.
It is a unique way of living, and most folks tend to miss if they move off of campus as an upperclassman.
But alas, the times, they are a-changin’. In Tuscaloosa, leasing has already begun for Riverfront Village, a brand new multi-use residential community located along Greensboro Avenue, adjacent to the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. At approximately one mile from the University of Alabama campus, the community is specifically geared toward college students. The community is spearheaded by Chance Partners, LLC.
“We are happy with the progress on the construction of the Riverfront Village community,” Judd Bobilin, CEO & President of Chance Partners, said in a press release. “Once fully completed, the development will provide a unique place where neighbors can live, work and play—all without having to get in a car.”
But what exactly is a mixed-use community?
Innovative as they may seem in the face of contemporary urban sprawl, mixed-use communities that combine residential life, retail and office into one compact space are actually an age-old concept. So perhaps the times aren’t a-changin’ so much as they are just going back to the way they used to be, however gradually.
In fact, most settlements in history that were reliant on trade and commerce in one form or another thrived as close-knit, mixed-use communities. One might argue that this type of community made its most recognizable debut in the form of medieval villages, where enormous walls were constructed closely together in order to secure the village. In these communities, villagers accessed goods and services available in close proximity to their homes.
The concept later made its way to Colonial America and continued to be popular for some time, particularly in urban areas like Manhattan Island where markets, residential spaces and businesses were frequently compacted into one acre of land or less.
Mixed-used communities served a practical purpose of gaining as much use from a limited space as possible. It seemed only logical to use the ground floor of a building to do business and the use the rest for residential space. A built-in consumer market was an added perk. If a community became overcrowded, it could typically be expanded. If not, people simply moved on elsewhere.
The practicality of these communities never changed, but American values did. People began to move away from them as the nation drifted further toward modern capitalism and the notion of independent personal destiny and ownership of private property led many to strike out on their own. The more industrialized the United States became, the more normative single-use facilities seemed to the public.
Neighborhoods were transformed into cheap, single-purpose tenements as rural and immigrant workers poured into the cities to take the new industrial jobs.
While many city dwellers still lived in close proximity to retail services and their places of employment, Euclidean zoning, or single-purpose zoning ordinances effectively separated buildings and spaces based on their uses. Zoning played a crucial role in facilitating the mass mid-twentieth century exodus from urban apartments and tenements to the suburbs.
The result of these changes is a uniquely American, uniquely capitalist, individualized conception of community. Immigrants unaccustomed to American culture often recall that, upon arrival, they were shocked at how little neighbors interact, how shut off people seemed from their neighbors.
Too, the individualization of America through this single-use facility urban sprawl greatly increased the need to commute. The result has been dramatically increased traffic, increased pollution and increased dependence on foreign oil, according to the U.S. Department of Energy Smart Communities Network.
And thus there is something unmistakably progressive about the revival of mixed-use communities. The resurgence began in cities in the latter half of the 20th century and gradually began making their way to rural markets over the last decade.
In the South, Chance Partners has introduces mixed-use communities in college towns like Athens and Savannah, Ga., Oxford, Miss., and Tallahassee, Fla, teaming up with architectural firms like architectural firm The Preston Partnership and J.M. Wilkerson Construction.
At the Tuscaloosa location, the development encompasses 7.5 acres, comprising five different buildings that will house 195 apartments, townhomes. Additionally, the development encompasses 30,000 square feet of commercial space that includes a health club and yoga studio, covered parking and a “SkyClub” that features an indoor lounge and patio overlooking the river.
“We are dedicated to leading the way in walkable urban infill design and this community is the latest example,” said Bobilin. “Downtown Tuscaloosa is undergoing a significant revitalization and we are thrilled to be a part of that progress.”
And while walkability is key to the development, residents have additional options. Like most student-oriented residential spaces, the property features-onsite Crimson Ride and Tuscaloosa Trolley shuttle stops. The community also offers a bike share program, following a growing international trend in which urban dwellers can borrow a bike from one location and return it to another spot on their route.
The earliest bike share programs can be traced to the 1960’s but, recently, they have become increasingly mainstream, yet the trend hasn’t yet caught on in most rural areas. By partnering with Republic Bike, a designer of custom bicycles, Chance Partners’ Tuscaloosa properties hopes to help students circumvent campus parking by biking directly to campus.
“The bike share program we’re implementing with Republic Bike will only add to the fast-paced, urban experience our tenants already enjoy”, Jeffrey Rosen, Vice President at Chance Partners, said in a press release. “In addition to living in downtown Tuscaloosa’s best properties, our residents will now have new ways to explore and experience the wonderful aspects of their surroundings, including the Riverwalk, the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, the University of Alabama campus and scenic downtown Tuscaloosa,”

About The Author

Judah Martin is a senior studying journalism at the University of Alabama.

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