Tag Archives: Amarillo City Hall

What must Herring Hotel owner be thinking?

I haven’t talked to the owner of the long-vacant Herring Hotel in downtown Amarillo, Texas, for a good while. I know Bob Goodrich quite well. He’s a nice man, a conscientious property owner — and a fellow with big dreams for the building that once served as the go-to spot for Amarillo’s social elite.

That all stipulated, Goodrich must be steamed as he reads about other abandoned downtown buildings finding new life. The latest such structure is the Rule Building, which developer Todd Harmon wants to turn into a boutique hotel. Then there’s the Barfield Building, which is going to open soon as boutique lodging.

Other structures are finding life, or are being repurposed into something other than their original use.

Then there’s the Herring Hotel building. It sits there. Vacant and rotting. Goodrich pays the taxes on it every year. He seeks developers and investors. He once called me to say he had a potential investor lined up; then the deal fell through.

Someone who at the time had intimate knowledge of downtown Amarillo’s redevelopment efforts told me years ago he was certain there would be a happy ending to the Herring Hotel saga. This individual is no longer part of the downtown in-crowd and, of course, I have retired from daily journalism and have relocated to another community. It’s quite possible this person didn’t know what he was talking about, but … well, that’s grist for another story — maybe. 

I do have a parting thought. Perhaps there ought to be a statement from the downtown redevelopment gurus addressing the reasons why the Herring Hotel continues to sit quietly with no apparent action on the horizon. Center City? The Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone board? City Hall? The Amarillo Matters PAC? The Convention and Visitors Council? Amarillo EDC?

Might there be some way to reveal to the nosey segments of the public what they think they need to know about the Herring Hotel? Is there a future for the building … or not?

Hodgetown earns honor, sending Center City director ‘over the moon’

Beth Duke is beaming with pride … and why not?

The Amarillo Center City director nominated Hodgetown, the city’s new downtown ballpark, for recognition as the best downtown construction project in Texas. Hodgetown then got the honor.

Duke, a lifelong Amarillo resident and a big-time promoter of its downtown revival, should be proud. So should the city for this latest honor granted to the shiny new ballpark that is home to the city’s championship-winning Texas League baseball team, the Sod Poodles.

The award comes from the Texas Downtown Association. It honors the ballpark’s look, its ambience, the attraction it proved to be for baseball fans and other Texas Panhandle residents.

As Duke told the Globe-News, where she worked for more than 30 years before taking over the Center City directorship: “I think you all know how proud I am of every building and the progress we’ve made in our beautiful downtown. I nominated Hodgetown for Best New Construction in a Texas (city) of more than 50,000 people. I was so gratified to be a finalist and the night we won, I was just over the moon.”

She should be over the moon.

I have taken great joy in applauding the city’s effort to build this structure, formerly known as the “multipurpose event venue.” It is a gorgeous home field for the Sod Poodles. More than that, it is a fabulous addition to downtown’s urban landscape.

Hodgetown came to fruition after a sometimes-rocky ride. I am more than willing to acknowledge harboring a doubt or two that the city could complete the project. There was turmoil on the City Council relating to the future of what was called the MPEV. Top-level city management went through a wholesale change with resignations of key personnel, including the city manager.

Despite the occasional ruckus at City Hall, the ballpark was completed. Hodgetown opened this past spring. The Sod Poodles played some great Class AA baseball in a ballpark full of cheering of fans.

Now comes a high honor from a downtown group that bestows honors that cities can use to their marketing advantage.

Beth Duke is the perfect advocate for Amarillo’s downtown district. She is a happy woman today. I am proud of her and of the city for the steps it has taken toward rebuilding its downtown business and entertainment district.

Well done.

Might the Herring have a future, too?

The Barfield Building renovation is proceeding toward a spring opening of the one-time rotting hulk of a structure. It will be reborn as a “boutique” hotel.

By all means, downtown Amarillo, Texas, has much more work ahead of it. I am going to wonder aloud whether there might be something in the wind regarding the Herring Hotel Plaza, which sits a few blocks north of the Barfield.

This isn’t an original thought. I heard it from a little birdie/Amarillo snitch the other day, but I want to share it with y’all.

Amarillo city officials are looking around for someplace to relocate City Hall. They say they want to find an existing structure where they could move what’s left of the city administration still operating at the current City Hall into another location. Much of the administrative work is being done at the Jim Simms building, leaving City Hall with essentially a skeleton crew.

So, here’s a thought: Might there be any interest in relocating City Hall into the Herring Hotel site, along with a mixed-use development that could occupy the rest of the once-grand structure?

City officials are maintaining a code of silence on what they’re thinking, or so I have been advised. They are pondering whether to present a bond issue proposal to voters next spring that would total more than $300 million. They want to renovate the Civic Center, dress up the Santa Fe Railroad Depot and, oh yeah, relocate City Hall.

The Herring Hotel has been dark for a very long time. Its owner, a retired academician named Bob Goodrich, has sought to find a suitable developer; he has come up empty. Goodrich pays the taxes annually on the building and tries to keep it secure against trespassers and transients who seek shelter from the elements.

The Herring used to be the place to go, to see and to be seen. It played host to lavish parties and once was a first-class hotel.

Downtown Amarillo does not lack suitable locations for City Hall. I understand there’s some interest in some bank structures scattered around the downtown district.

However, would it not be a masterful public relations stroke of genius to identify a way to convert the Herring into a usable office building, combined with housing and perhaps a smattering of retail business?

I believe there remains a significant bit of nostalgia for the Herring around Amarillo. Heck, I even have changed my mind about the building. I used to believe it needed a wrecking ball; I no longer hold that belief. Surely there can be some use for the structure.

If City Hall is committed to relocating into an existing downtown structure, officials have a grand building looming a few blocks away.

Psst … hey, City Hall, be sure to tell public where you’re going

A little birdie has informed me of a development that needs some fleshing out up yonder in Amarillo, where city officials are pondering a way to present a bond issue to voters that could drastically remake the shape and location of municipal government.

At issue is a discussion over a potential $300 million-plus bond issue that would involve an expansion/renovation of the Civic Center, renovation of the Santa Fe Depot and the relocation of City Hall.

It’s the last item I want to discuss briefly.

I understand from my source that the City Council is keeping its relocation options quiet regarding where it wants to relocate City Hall. The city wants to move the government operations center into an existing structure downtown.

So, you might be wondering: Where? Which building? What’s involved in the renovation of that structure into a workable municipal complex?

City officials are looking at a possible May 2020 bond issue election date. That’s not too far out there, folks. It seems to me that the site of new City Hall would need to be known to the public that would decide whether to spend that kind of money.

I don’t know how far along the city is in its determination of where to relocate City Hall. My hope would be that once the city administration and the council decide that they all would reveal in detail to the public what it has in mind and how it intends to accomplish its goal.

The city already has peeled off a lot of its administrative functions from City Hall, moving many of those functions into the Jim Simms Administration Building. So it would appear that the city doesn’t need as much space for a new City Hall as has at its current site across the street from Hodgetown, the Sod Poodles’ ballpark.

But … first things first.

Be sure to let the public know what the council has in mind and where it intends to place it. The sooner the better.

Do not split this bond package into bite-sized bits

Whatever decision comes from the Amarillo City Council regarding a theoretical bond issue to fix the Civic Center and relocate City Hall, my hope stands eternal.

Do not break this bond issue into small pieces, giving voters a chance to shop for which of the projects they prefer.

Put it all out there under a single measure. Make the voters swallow all of it or spit it out.

The city is pondering a bond issue that would total more than $300 million. Under discussion is a plan to renovate the Civic Center, built in 1968 and in dire need of an upgrade; renovation of the Santa Fe Railroad Depot building next to the Civic Center, turning into a showplace; relocation of City Hall into an existing downtown structure.

I don’t know what the cost will be. It’s likely to be well north of $300 million. I do believe the city needs the projects it is considering.

I suppose the city could decide to forgo some of the ideas under consideration. At the very least the city should proceed with the Civic Center project. The Cal Farley Coliseum is too small, too cramped and too old to be good for much more than what it hosts already: arena football and minor-league hockey. As for City Hall’s relocation, perhaps that project can be sold, too, as an essential need that would enable the city to provide better service for its 200,000 constituents. The Santa Fe Depot job? That might be a debatable point.

Still, whatever the decision, the city shouldn’t bust up the projects into bite-sized morsels for voters to ponder.

The city is considering putting this bond issue on the ballot in May 2020. That’s as good a date as any.

Just keep the bond issue proposal all together, city leaders.

Wishing I could vote in favor of this issue

I am left to endorse a project without having an actual voice in assuring its approval.

The project to which I refer involves an extreme makeover of the Amarillo Civic Center, the renovation of a historic railroad depot across the street from the center and the relocation Amarillo’s City Hall to a suitable existing structure downtown.

But … I cannot vote on it when it comes to a vote. My hope is that the city doesn’t back down from a proposal it will consider.

The bill will be hefty, more than $300 million. The Civic Center needs more convention space and the Cal Farley Coliseum needs a serious upgrade to accommodate more than truck/tractor pulls, hockey and arena football; OK, the coliseum occasionally hosts a concert … but those who’ve been inside understand the need for a serious upgrade.

As for the City Hall relocation, I am a bit torn on this one. One of my social media friends wondered the other day whether the recently vacated Amarillo Globe-News building at Ninth Avenue and Harrison Street might work. I answered him with a “Maybe.” I don’t know how the square footage in the G-N building compares with the current City Hall.

I also remember something that a former Amarillo mayor once said to me about the municipal headquarters. He called it the “ugliest City Hall complex in the United States.” I have to agree that the exterior of the building is pretty damn ugly.

Here’s another potential hiccup: The stone Earth on the municipal complex. How would the city relocate that, if it needed to be relocated? It was a gift to the city from the Globe-News as part of its Celebrate 2000 commemoration back at the turn of the 21st century.

Well, the city is considering a bond issue that I believe it should present to voters in a single package. All or nothing, man! It’s worth doing, in my humble view.

The city might schedule the bond election in May 2020. That would work, too. At least one chronic sorehead has pitched the idea of having it on Presidential Election Day, in November of next year. It shouldn’t matter.

If the city is going to bring maximum public attention to this needed project, residents ought to respond with a hefty vote total.

My only regret is that I cannot cast a vote in favor of this project.

Amarillo would be poised to reap the benefit of a shiny new Civic Center. Let the debate commence.

Civic Center renovation? Absolutely! It needs it!

Back when Amarillo’s civic, business and political leadership were talking up the need to build a event venue/ballpark downtown, one could hear grumbling from some quarters that went something like this: Why don’t you do something with the Civic Center? It needs improvement … badly.

Hodgetown has been built; the Amarillo Sod Poodles have completed their initial regular season of AA minor league baseball before virtually packed houses every night. Downtown Amarillo’s evolution is progressing nicely.

The City Council is now proposing a major renovation, reconstruction of its 51-year-old Civic Center. It’s going to cost some money, about $300-plus million. The city is planning to conduct a bond issue election in May 2020 to ask for residents’ permission.

Ahh, but that ain’t all of it. The city wants to renovate the old Santa Fe Railroad Depot structure next to the Civic Center. Here’s my favorite part: relocation of City Hall to an existing downtown structure; no building a new City Hall from scratch. The city thinks it can find a suitable existing structure to house its municipal offices. I have thought just a bit about what might be available, but I am coming up empty.

You want ambition? You want proactive government? This is it, folks!

A new Civic Center in the works

I happen to support the notion in principle. OK, I don’t live in Amarillo any longer. I just happen to be a Texas Panhandle ex-pat who returns to Amarillo on occasion to see family and friends — and to witness the progress I envision for the city my wife and I called home for more than two decades.

The Civic Center was built in 1968. The Cal Farley Coliseum is a fine venue for truck pulls, along with hockey and indoor arena football. The coliseum’s roof isn’t nearly far enough off the deck to suit event planners.

From what I have seen of the concept being kicked around, the council is talking about an extreme makeover, with tens of thousands more square feet of convention space and some serious green space landscaping around the structure.

Here is what I also hope the city does not do: I do not want the city to break up the project into bite-sized morsels. Please, city officials, do not separate the Civic Center complex job from the Santa Fe Depot job, or from the new City Hall location.

Residents ought to be able to determine whether they want all of it. Amarillo has gone down this a la carte method before. Residents have been picky about what they like.

To its credit, the city planning some “public feedback forums” to give officials some guidance on how to proceed. My other great hope is that residents show up and offer their comment — while at the same time avoiding the implication that the city is proceeding in secret.

This project — all of it — is likely to bring untold benefit to a city I believe is on the move. As for the Hodgetown naysayers, here is your opportunity to campaign hard for a project you said you wanted in the first place.

First season winding down; looks like Sod Poodles will stick

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — We’re on the road, visiting briefly a city with a curious link to the Amarillo Sod Poodles, a AA minor-league baseball franchise that is completing its initial season.

You see, Colorado Springs used to be home to a AAA baseball franchise, but that franchise has moved to San Antonio; therefore, that meant the San Antonio Missions had to find a new place to play hardball.

They moved to Amarillo. The Texas Panhandle city had offered substantial financial and  tax inducements to bring the team there.

Then they had to build a ballpark. The city selected a site downtown, across the street from City Hall. The decision required the relocation of the Coca-Cola distribution center to a site near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

The Sod Poodles, which is the name chosen, won the Texas League’s South Division title in the season’s first half. They’re trying to wrap up the division’s second half title.

All told, I’d say the Sod Poodles have enjoyed a marvelous initial season. They’re playing before large crowds at a ballpark named Hodgetown in honor of former Mayor Jerry Hodge and his wife, Margaret; they are leading proponent of downtown revival and they lobbied hard for the Missions to move to the Panhandle. The postseason playoffs are just around the corner.

Not a bad start to a new era of baseball in Amarillo, Texas.

Amarillo College, city score a winner with free bus rides

When I heard of this news item from up yonder in Amarillo, I’ll admit to a reaction that might seem a bit unflattering.

It was: What took ’em so long to enact this one?

Amarillo City Transit, the public bus transportation system, is soon to offer free transportation for Amarillo College students. The idea is so brilliant yet so simple, I was struck by the length of time it took for someone to pitch it to the City Council.

Who might be the biggest beneficiaries of this initiative? I figure it’s got to be the students who attend classes at AC’s main campus on Washington Street, just south of Interstate 40. You see, parking at that campus has been a serious problem for as long as I can remember.

I have known several AC presidents over many years, starting with Bud Joyner; then along came Fred Williams, Steve Jones, Paul Matney and now Russell Lowery-Hart. They all grappled with the parking nightmare at the main campus, as did the AC Board of Regents. College enrollment grew, but the parking capacity didn’t keep pace.

The way I figure it, if the college and the city promote this new benefit aggressively and effectively, it will fill the buses with students coming into town to attend classes. It also well could alleviate the parking problem with fewer motor vehicles being crammed onto the parking lots and along the city streets surrounding the campus.

I also must admit to a failing of my own. You see, I worked as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News for nearly 18 years and I don’t once recall ever having a discussion with my boss, or the editorial board, or with college administrators and city officials about enacting such a plan for students.

So I’m left to ask while kicking myself in the backside: Why didn’t I think of this idea long ago?

I am hoping this idea works well for the students … as well as for the college.

Downtown Amarillo Inc.: What happened to it?

As I continue to watch from some distance the evolution of downtown Amarillo, I cannot help but think of an individual and an organization that helped kickstart the city’s downtown district’s rebirth into something quite different from what it had been allowed to become.

The individual is Melissa Dailey. The organization is Downtown Amarillo Inc. Dailey once ran DAI. Then she got sideways with the City Council. Dailey resigned from her DAI post and eventually left Amarillo for Fort Worth. DAI then was swallowed up by other municipal entities that took over the organization’s role of masterminding the city’s downtown rebirth/revival/renovation/reinaissance.

I had resigned from the Amarillo Globe-News by the time much of this change occurred. So I wasn’t as plugged in as I had been prior to my departure from the world of daily journalism. I acknowledge a few holes in my memory of what precisely went down.

Dailey had critics in the city. Some of the then-newly elected City Council members didn’t like the way she handled DAI’s business.

But as I take the long view looking back over the span of time since Amarillo’s urban rebirth gained traction, I am left with this thought: Much of the progress we’re witnessing in the city began on Melissa Dailey’s watch as head of Downtown Amarillo Inc.

Were there some missteps? You bet. DAI took part in the hiring of an outfit based in Sugarland, a Houston suburb, that was supposed to oversee the overall management of the downtown effort. Wallace Bajjali fell apart quite literally when the principal owners parted company with each other, thus dissolving the company. There were reports of malfeasance in other communities that had bought into Wallace Bajjali’s grand promise of economic revival; they suffered serious financial harm. To my knowledge, Amarillo had managed to protect its interests sufficiently to avoid any financial liability when the company vanished into thin air.

The city has recovered from potential catastrophe and it has moved on. It has taken control of its own downtown management. They’ve got that ballpark, a minor-league baseball franchise, Polk Street revival, an ongoing hotel renovation of the old Barfield Building, new urban housing, businesses relocating and springing up throughout the core district, a new downtown West Texas A&M University campus … and some other things, too!

As for Melissa Dailey, someone I admit to not knowing well, I sense she is sort of a forgotten principal in the city’s effort to revive itself.

Perhaps one day when the city’s history is written and its downtown revival efforts are chronicled for posterity, Dailey will get the credit I believe she deserves for helping lead the city out of the downtown wilderness into a future that continues to look brighter with each completed project.