Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Many Tornado-Impacted Residential Areas Remain Construction Zones

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Many Tornado-Impacted Residential Areas Remain Construction Zones

Article excerpt

Thousands of residents were displaced when the April 27, 2011, tornado left a nearly 6-mile path of destruction through Tuscaloosa.

Officials reported that 1,257 residences were destroyed and 4,105 were damaged. Two years later, many of the affected areas are still construction zones.

According to the city of Tuscaloosa, 2,411 residential building permits for new construction and repairs estimated to cost $89 million have been issued in recovery zones as of Thursday. That includes new construction valued at just more than $48 million and close to $40 million in repair permits.

Vacant lots and concrete foundations still line hard-hit 26th Avenue East in Alberta, but building permits that hang from utility poles promise redevelopment. A few streets away on Juanita Drive, crews from Habitat for Humanity have erected frames and are well on the way to completing several homes. Similar empty lots can be found in the Forest Lake area, but several houses have been built and are advertising for lease or rental in the fall. Families began moving into the newly constructed 88-unit first phase of Rosedale Court in December.

Authorities know that the city's population shifted from the damaged areas, but they expect that people will move back once more housing options are available.

"We anticipate that the tornado, when we look at it after a five- or 10-year period, should have minimal impact in terms of population shifts," said Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox.

In February 2012, the Tuscaloosa Board of Education shared results from a demographics study conducted by law firm Phelps, Jenkins, Gibson & Fowler. The firm worked with several engineering firms and used data from the City of Tuscaloosa's information technology department to determine how many people remained in tornado-devastated neighborhoods and how many people planned to move back to those areas.

Researchers found that between 30 and 41 percent of students attending Alberta Elementary, University Place Elementary and University Place Middle schools lived outside their school zone at the time, nearly a year after the storm. …

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