Downtown’s future looking brighter

Beth Duke is on a singular mission, which is to improve the economic condition of Amarillo’s downtown district. It makes sense, given her day job as executive director of Amarillo Center City.

This past weekend, Center City conducted a tour of historic structures scattered through the downtown region. The aim of the tour is to give prospective business owners an opportunity to see what the future might hold for the city — and for them.

I happen to support Center City’s mission and I have noted before that the organization has deployed the perfect person — that would be Beth Duke — to carry the mission forward. Duke was born and reared in Amarillo and spent a lengthy career covering the city while working as a reporter and editor at the Amarillo Globe-News.

Another reason for supporting Center City and its effort to juice up downtown lies in the ripple benefit that is sure to accrue across the city over time.

Study after municipal study reveals a common denominator among cities: All of the communities that enjoy economic and cultural vitality also are home to vibrant downtown districts.

Amarillo is on that path. You see it constantly evolving into something few of us can foresee at this moment. The downtown ballpark is under construction; downtown has welcomed two new first-class hotels; new retail businesses are springing up along Polk Street — and existing businesses are moving into shiny new digs.

There’s some positive rumbling about prospects for some rotting structures, namely the Barfield Building and the Ruhl Building.

It’s not all goodness and light. That 31-story skyscraper once known as the Chase Tower is undergoing change, although commercial real estate brokers report a jacked-up interest among folks who want to relocate to it. But then we hear that the Amarillo Club — which occupies the top two floors of the tower — is closing.

Will the historic building tour accelerate downtown’s rebirth? That remains to be seen, although the Globe-News reports some highly positive impact: “Tours like this are great, otherwise I don’t think people would realize what has been done to these old buildings,” said Laura Lane, who took part in the tour. “I am so glad to see historical buildings in downtown Amarillo get refurbished and reused and reinvented. To be able to walk to work, with restaurants everywhere now, this just enlivens the downtown area.”

As the city’s downtown evolution progresses, I feel confident enough to declare that once Amarillo’s work is done — whenever that occurs — the entire city is going to reap the reward.

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