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The days of sleepy, little college towns appear to be growing short

When the iconic and beloved Campus Barber Shop in downtown Auburn had to move to make way for the development of a Kick Six Restaurant adorned with luxury high rise apartments, people across the state took notice. 

Carl Cochran, the longtime owner of the barbershop, said there’s no comparing the downtown he first laid eyes on in 1969, to what it is now. 

In reference to the increase in apartments and other high-rise development, Carl said, “I hate to see downtown go to that, but that’s the way it’s going.” 

A new development at Toomer’s Corner will take the place of a long abandoned empty building. In that site will be a ground-level restaurant, luxury condominiums on the four floors above, and a rooftop space that will be available for restaurant patrons and private events.

RELATED: Auburn No. 1 in state in U.S. News & World Report rankings

Across the state, school-rival Tuscaloosa finds itself in a similar situation.

Sports Illustrated is launching its first OnCampus resort across the Black Warrior River. Tuscaloosa is no stranger to visitors on game day, but this time, “it just means more.” 

More people, more money, and more attention.

And more specifically, a “full-service hotel, vacation ownership club, residential condos, wellness center, dining, and entertainment options.”

RELATED: Tuscaloosa scores first Sports Illustrated college town resort

The focus on college sports, the money surrounding it, and the places they inhabit are growing every year. Developers see a need for more opportunities to eat, drink, and live, right in the heart of the towns that welcome tens of thousands every Saturday.  

“I am excited about the beautiful living spaces this project offers, as well as the culture, job growth, and tax revenue the local economy will receive through the restaurant and event space on the bottom floor and rooftop of the building,” said Diana Ramage, a real estate agent who will begin listing the property.

It’s a gold rush.

It appears the infatuation with southern culture through fads such as “Bama Rush” has transcended social media and become something tangible: economic opportunity.

The Kick Six Restaurant and SI OnCampus are surely the first in a long string of projects aimed at capturing this opportunity. If they can survive the pushback from locals and others determined to preserve what they view as the rightful vision for their towns, they’re sure to strike gold in the Iron Bowl.

Jake Yohn is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News

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