| Every summer, my family — six people, one large dog and lots of stuff — embarks on a cross-country trip from Alabama to northern Michigan. We always stop mid-trip for the night, usually in a small or mid-sized city in Indiana or Kentucky, towns not much different from Tuscaloosa. Most of these mid-sized cities look exactly alike.Exiting the interstate, you find yourself on a four-lane highway sandwiched between an array of fast-food restaurants, mid- priced hotels, shopping centers with acres of parking and a forest of glaring plastic signs on poles. However, if you take the time to drive past the highway clutter and seek out the original historic areas, you find charming older sections that are the true “heart and soul” of these cities.
These original downtown business areas, surrounded by historic neighborhoods, are where the locals take their visitors and where city officials take potential business investors to try to impress them with a sense of community. These areas have life and beauty and a sense of history and permanence. Tuscaloosa is no different.
Historic district residents enjoy being close to the beautiful University of Alabama campus and downtown. We enjoy walking or biking to shops, restaurants, the Riverwalk, churches and entertainment venues. We are fortunate to be zoned for good public schools, a key factor in our ability to attract families. We choose to live here for the history of the place — for the beautiful older homes, the old trees and the inherent charm these afford. We enjoy the liveliness of living near campus in all seasons, winter, spring, summer and football. We love the youth and vigor that the college students bring, but when summer comes and the students leave, we really love the renewed peacefulness.
Mostly we love living here because we enjoy our neighbors. We are a very diverse group. It is a “melting pot” of backgrounds and interests, yet we all live side-byside, in close quarters, with reasonable harmony.
The design of our historic neighborhoods, with sidewalks, front porches, small lots and neighborhood parks, is a formula that creates close neighborly ties. Throughout the country, and even in Tuscaloosa, new residential developments are trying to copy the historic neighborhoods. For these and many other reasons, most residents in the historic districts choose to stay here even though most could live almost anywhere in the city.
We hope that others in the greater Tuscaloosa community will see the value in preserving the area and support us in our efforts to make the historic neighborhoods a place all of us can be proud of and some of us can call home.
Kelly Fitts is president of the Original City Association. Readers can visit the organization’s website at oca- tuscaloosa.org.
Tuscaloosa News Article 10/12/2014, Page D07