Tag Archives: Amarillo Matters

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.

Barfield Building rebirth: a major surprise

There’s no way in the world to overstate the surprise I felt when I heard the news, that a developer had decided to remake the Barfield Building in downtown Amarillo and turn it into a “boutique hotel” with the Marriott name.

Yep, it was a shock. The picture you see with this blog post comes from Neal Nossaman, a Facebook friend of mine who posted it on the social media site.

The Barfield is going to open in the spring. Crews have been working on gutting the interior, gussying up the exterior and turning the rotted-out building into a hotel; it also will have, as I understand, some retail space as well.

I would see the Barfield Building over many years continue to deteriorate. It sat vacant for more than four decades. It became a haven for transients who needed shelter from the heat and the cold.

The Barfield had a series of owners who tried and failed to secure funding for renovating the structure. Some of the owners were out of towners; some were locals. They couldn’t pull it together.

Then suddenly and shockingly, there was this announcement a year ago that Marriott had signed on to re-do the building. Plans emerged to turn this structure into this “boutique” hotel. I’m still not sure how a “boutique” hotel actually differs from a regular hotel. Whatever. The work has progressed.

They have a completion date in view.

My surprise notwithstanding, I simply am thrilled to see a once-rotting hulk of a building get new life.

Amazing, man.

Parking garage gets a tenant … more to come, hmm?

That parking garage across the street from Hodgetown has a tenant. It’s a trendy restaurant called Joe Taco, which operates an eatery on the far west side of the city, near the medical center complex.

I understand the Local Government Corporation worked out an agreement that allows Joe Taco to operate in the parking garage rent free for the first year. Then it will pay rent on a graduated scale after that.

Good deal, yes? We shall see.

What I am not clear about just yet is whether any other tenants have signed on at the garage, which was built with considerable fanfare, hoopla and promises of more businesses to fill the ground floor spaces in the structure.

Hey, I remain optimistic that the garage will pay the freight, that it will lure other retail outlets to help defray the cost of operating the building.

Hodgetown is a beauty of a venue for the Amarillo Sod Poodles, which played championship-winning hardball at the ballpark in their first season in existence. Not a bad start.

I regret being unable to attend any games this year. I have moved away. We don’t get back to Amarillo as frequently these days. We’re settled in nicely in our new digs in Collin County. However, I remain a keen observer of Amarillo’s evolution and at this point I like what I see occurring there.

The parking garage adds an attractive edifice to the city’s downtown urban-scape. The gurus who conceived it have pledged that it will fill with businesses. I want their pledge to come true.

Amarillo Matters shows that it really matters

A couple of years ago a group of Amarillo civic and business leaders got together to form a political action committee dedicated — according to its mission statement — to the betterment of the city.

They called themselves Amarillo Matters. Some critics in the city spoke out against the group, suggesting some sort of nefarious motivation was driving the organization’s agenda.

But what has happened since Amarillo Matters came into being in 2016?

It endorsed a slate of City Council candidates prior to the 2017 municipal election. All five of the individuals endorsed by Amarillo Matters won that election. They all ran for re-election this year and, with Amarillo Matters’ blessing yet again, they all were re-elected.

How has the city done? Quite well, based on my observation.

Downtown’s district renovation has proceeded apace. They built that ballpark along Buchanan Street. The Amarillo Sod Poodles played baseball at Hodgetown, drawing huge crowds at every home game and, oh yes, they won the Texas League pennant after a thrilling come-from-behind victory in the fifth game of the championship series against the defending champs, the Tulsa Drillers. I know … Amarillo Matters didn’t have a thing to do with the Sod Poodles’ success on the baseball field.

Amarillo Matters’ mission calls for the development of “positive opportunities for Amarillo and the surrounding area.” Man, that sounds pretty damn sinister, don’t you think?

Yes, I questioned Amarillo Matters along the way, too. I wondered in an earlier blog post about the identity of the individuals who comprise its leadership. I called on Amarillo Matters to be more transparent and to reveal their identities to the public. The IDs have trickled out, but I will presume that some critics still contend that Amarillo Matters remains too secretive.

However, the result of the group’s mission is worth noting, too.

Amarillo has made tremendous progress over the past few years, even pre-dating Amarillo Matters’ emergence as a political force in the city.

Does a group of business leaders deserve all the credit for the city’s success? No. However, neither does it deserve the brickbats that some critics have hurled at it.

Amarillo has fared well. Amarillo Matters deserves some of the credit for the success that has come Amarillo’s way.

Downtown revival will drive the city’s future

I feel quite comfortable making this prediction on the city I used to call home: Amarillo’s future will rely on the progress that has been made — and will continue being made — with its downtown district.

I have moved away but I am enjoying the sight of the city repurposing much of its downtown district into something that has yet to be defined fully.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles have completed a successful season playing AA baseball in a shiny new ballpark on Buchanan Street. Polk Street is undergoing a major makeover. The Potter County Courthouse Square has been remade and the county is looking seriously these days at building new District Courts Building to replace the structure that former County Judge Arthur Ware has called “The Grain Elevator.”

Now the city is getting into the game in a serious way. It is pondering whether to renovate the Civic Center, re-do the Santa Fe Depot and relocate City Hall into an existing downtown structure. Psst … I hear the Globe-News Building at Ninth and Harrison is available.

I long have subscribed to the notion that successful cities all have one thing in common: They boast vibrant downtown districts.

Yes, the city’s effort at remaking downtown has its critics. Imagine my (non)surprise. I just want to offer this admonition: The entire city will reap the reward once the work gets done downtown.

Amarillo’s governing council for too long look askance at investing public funds into its downtown. It believed that the private sector should carry the load virtually exclusively. Beginning with the mayorship of Debra McCartt, continuing through that of Paul Harpole and now with Ginger Nelson pounding the gavel, the city has taken a more proactive approach to downtown redevelopment.

That is to everyone’s credit. It will be everyone’s benefit as well.

I cannot predict when this will happen. I just believe as sure as I am writing these words that it will.

Panhandle no longer is a Texas ‘step-child’

There once was a Texas Panhandle state representative who semi-seriously thought the Panhandle should separate itself from the rest of the state because, he groused, state government ignores the region.

That state rep was David Swinford, a Dumas Republican first elected to office in 1990. I asked him about that notion when I first met him in 1995 and he didn’t exactly deny it.

Well, Swinford has retired from the Legislature. And to its credit, the legislative body has restored faith in many in the Panhandle. How? By appropriating enough money — $17 million — to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

This is great news for the region. A lot of folks are taking credit for ensuring the Legislature made this event a reality.

The Texas Tech University System is going to build the vet school, the second one in Texas. The first vet school is run by the Texas A&M University System. Aggieland opposed Tech’s initiative. Tech wasn’t going to be denied. It lined up plenty of political backing in the Panhandle and the South Plains.

Amarillo Matters, a political action committee formed a couple of years ago, is one organization that is taking credit for pushing the Legislature to act. Amarillo Matters said this on its website:

“Not only does the budget include startup funding for the vet school, but it also includes a directive for Texas Tech to move forward developing the school,” Amarillo Matters President Jason Herrick said. “This is great news for Amarillo, the Texas Panhandle and South Plains, and our state as a whole.” The school will help meet the growing need for large animal and rural veterinarians across the state. It will also increase the opportunities for Texas students to further their education without leaving the state.

“Legislative approval of the Texas Tech veterinary school is a watershed event for West Texas, the Texas Panhandle, and all of Texas,” former Texas Tech University System Chancellor Bob Duncan said. “This culminates years of hard work by literally hundreds of individuals who recognized the unmet demand for rural and large animal veterinarians throughout our state,” Duncan added.

Read the rest of Amarillo Matters’ post here.

Here’s my essential point: State government has not ignored the Panhandle. Yet one hears the occasional gripe from those who think it still does. Let’s lose the attitude, my former Panhandle neighbors. The Panhandle has plenty of legislative clout and it used it effectively for the benefit of the delegation’s constituents.

I also doubt that my friend David Swinford is among the soreheads.

Time to come clean, Amarillo Matters

I have been a vocal supporter of Amarillo Matters, a group of well-connected business and civic leaders who have formed a political action committee aimed at helping guide the city’s political future.

I endorse Amarillo Matter’s municipal agenda. I believe these individuals are motivated for the right reasons. I do not endorse much of the criticism that has been leveled at Amarillo Matters over the past couple of municipal election cycles.

As the saying goes, “When you insert the word ‘but,’ the next thing that comes out usually isn’t a positive statement.” So, here goes:

But . . . the group needs to be more transparent with the community about its membership and the leaders it has elected among those who have signed on to the PAC. The criticism of the PAC’s secrecy is a valid one.

I chatted the other day with one of the individuals who belongs to Amarillo Matters. I’ll keep his identity a secret here, because he doesn’t know I’m going to write about this matter on this blog.

However, I told this person that it’s imperative for Amarillo Matters to come clean. It’s critical that the group reveal who it is. Absent that total transparency, Amarillo Matters will expose itself to more of the cheap-seat criticism that others will fling at it.

This individual told me the members of the Amarillo Matters leadership are aware of the criticism leveled at the perception of secrecy. He said that those members have businesses they fear could suffer. They are concerned that residents might launch boycotts against them, this person said. The person with whom I spoke gave me some of the names of the PAC’s leadership. I know them all; I know some of them quite well. They are respected community leaders, indeed.

My response was clear: It all goes with the territory.

I still believe Amarillo Matters’ agenda is a noble one. Its mission statement and its vision for the community insist on high integrity and altruism. It endorses efforts to revive downtown; it is pushing hard for the proposed Texas Tech University school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

For the group, though, to keep its membership’s identity from the public it aims to serve actually undercuts its high-minded mission.

Hot buttons hit; now, produce some evidence

I must have hit a couple of hot buttons with a recent blog post about Amarillo Matters, wondering about the sniping at this group of individuals who seek to have its voice heard on the direction taken by City Hall.

My earlier post wondered why the sniping is occurring, given that Amarillo Matters’ mission and vision statements seem noble enough.

A couple of respondents challenged me for weighing in at all, given that I no longer live in Amarillo.

Amarillo Matters worked to re-elect the City Council; they were rewarded by voters who returned all five council members for another two years in office.

But some of these respondents have tossed out a few potentially explosive terms. They referred to what they called “corruption.” They accused members of Amarillo Matters of being interested only in “self-enrichment.” The criticism of the blog post implied that the rich folks who comprise Amarillo Matters somehow are interested only in fattening their own hefty bank accounts.

Is there evidence of malfeasance? Or double-dipping? What about back-room wheeling and dealing?

My comment aims only to draw attention to the positive direction I’ve seen occurring in Amarillo over the course of several years. Yes, that positive course even pre-dates the election of the City Council in 2017.

One critic sought to “shame” me for being “so dismissive” of concerns about Amarillo Matters. I am not dismissing anyone. My concern rests with what looks and sounds to me like an empty gripe.

I must ask: Is the city heading down the path toward oblivion?

I’ll answer my query: I believe it is moving toward a bright future.

Amarillo Matters taking shots … but, why?

Why is it a bad thing for a political action group to seek to guide the city into a future that well could lift everyone who lives there?

Amarillo Matters taking shots … but, why?

Election Day came and went across Texas this past weekend. In Amarillo, the returns were fruitful for those who like the direction City Hall has taken the past couple of years.

Among those who are gratified is a group called Amarillo Matters. The political action committee endorsed all five City Council incumbents; they all won re-election.

But as usual, I am hearing some bitching/griping/sour graping from afar, way over yonder in Collin County, where my wife and I now live.

Some folks think Amarillo has forked over enough money to get the City Council to do its bidding. They are unhappy about it.

OK, let’s take a look briefly at Amarillo Matters. Shall we?

It’s mission statement is simple. It states: Amarillo Matters will work to identify, articulate and facilitate positive opportunities for Amarillo and the surrounding area.

Sounds sinister, right?

Oh, then there’s this from its vision statement, which declares in part: Amarillo Matters will seek out and support leaders of the highest integrity. We will look for leaders who know what makes us great and have the desire and knowledge to make us better.

Nefarious, don’t you think?

Look, I no longer have a dog in that fight. We sold our home in March 2018. We have moved away. We have set up a new life in Collin County. However, I do take a great interest in the city where we lived for more than two decades. It is a city in which I was charged with the task of commenting on its direction during my nearly 18 years as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. Thus, it is hard for me to let go.

Amarillo Matters was right to get involved when it was founded in 2016. A group of leading civic and business leaders didn’t like what it saw when a new majority took control of the City Council in 2015. I shared their concern as I watched it during my final years in the city.

The city has made tremendous progress since the 2017 election, when voters elected a brand new City Council. Is it wrong for Amarillo Matters to want a council that will lead the city toward a future that remains largely unknown, but which is taking shape in real time?

Amarillo appears to be moving forward. How is that a bad thing?

Local PAC under fire once again

I try to keep an open mind. Really, I do.

However, I am baffled about why a group formed in Amarillo, Texas, to promote a certain agenda keeps getting sniped at by individuals and — please forgive me if I sound unkind — a few soreheads who cannot tolerate the influence this group has acquired.

Amarillo Matters is a political action committee with a stated mission to recruit individuals to run for public office. The PAC got involved in the 2017 municipal election, backed a slate of candidates for the City Council and then watched as all five of their endorsees won their seats on the council.

What has happened in the two years since then? Oh, a few things.

The city’s downtown revival has progressed. A new ballpark has opened downtown and the Amarillo Sod Poodles are now playing hardball at the AA level; they’re playing to thousands of fans each night. The Barfield Building, long abandoned and thought to be beyond repair, is being rehabbed and will open as a boutique hotel. City streets are being repaired and upgraded all over town.

The City Council is up for re-election next month. Amarillo Matters has endorsed them all. That’s no surprise, right? The folks the PAC endorsed are seeking another two years and Amarillo Matters isn’t going to abandon the council.

Is the city headed in the wrong direction? I do not believe so.

Check out Amarillo Matters website here.

I keep seeing social media posts from those who dislike Amarillo Matters. Why? Is it because its leadership comprises successful business and civic leaders? If so, why condemn them because of the success they have garnered? I believe we reward success in this country.

I have moved away from Amarillo but I retain an intense interest in the city’s future. I sat at ringside for more than two decades there and have watched it evolve from a moribund community to one that is on the move. Amarillo’s future has yet to be determined, but my creaky ol’ bones tell me it’s on the road to brighter days.

If a group of successful individuals can form a PAC and then push an agenda that enriches the community, then I offer a tip of the cap.

Go for it!