Tag Archives: Barfield Building

City set for a smashing new year

Beth Duke is a longtime friend of mine; I’ve known her since January 1995 when I first moved to Amarillo, Texas, to become editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, where she was serving as features editor and later as city editor.

Thus, I feel safe in saying that Duke is doing what she now is getting paid to do: She is talking ever so positively about the prospects for the city’s downtown business and entertainment district. As director of Center City, that’s her job.

There. Having said that, I totally agree with her assessment that 2019 is shaping up as a potentially Earth-shattering year for the city’s downtown district, as work continues full throttle on projects aimed at injecting new life into the district.

I no longer live in Amarillo, but my interest in the progression of the city’s downtown rebirth hasn’t abated in the least. I am delighted at what I see happening there and to be candid, Duke and her organization have played a significant role in that effort.

According to the Globe-News: “Last year, 2018, was a great year for Center City with the construction of the MPEV (multipurpose event venue),” Duke said. “People can finally see what venue is a catalyst project.”

The Amarillo Sod Poodles, the city’s new AA minor league baseball team, opens its Texas League season in early April. My hunch is that the ballpark under construction on Buchanan Street will be full on opening day. The “catalyst” hopefully will ignite lots of related activity downtown and, thus, boost the city’s image, fatten its wallet with sales tax revenue and provide the city with additional resources to develop other parts of the city.

Businesses are slated to begin filling the ground-floor storefronts at the parking garage that was erected across the street from the MPEV. Work has begun on the Barfield Building, turning that rotting structure into a Marriott hotel. It will join the Courtyards by Marriott at the Historic Fisk Building as a place that has breathed new life into a historic structure. The Embassy Suites hotel across from the Civic Center is attracting conventions.

Polk Street is coming back to life. Potter County’s refurbished courthouse is a thing of beauty and the county now is beginning to discuss openly options related to replacing the Courts Building.

Yes, I hear about some of the grumbling from those who want the city to invest in other neighborhoods and quit concentrating on downtown. I am empathetic to their concerns. My hope today is that City Hall is listening.

However, none of that should disparage the progress that’s been made downtown. My mantra remains the same as it always has been: Show me a city on the move and I am virtually certain that the city possesses a vital downtown district.

Amarillo clearly is on the move. Its downtown business district is setting the pace.

Now, how about the Herring Hotel?

You’ve heard it said, “If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they, um, make the trains run on time?”

Amarillo, Texas, might have a “put a man on the moon” metaphor of its own. It could go something like this:

“If they can find a way to rehabilitate and reopen the crappy hulk of a structure known as the Barfield Building, why can’t they do the same thing for the Herring Hotel?”

The Barfield Building — which is a rotting 10-story structure at the moment — is going to be repurposed as a Marriott boutique hotel.

Meanwhile, the Herring Hotel, once the city’s go-to place for every social event of consequence, also is rotting. It’s dark. It is foreboding.

A friend of mine, Bob Goodrich, has owned the building since the 1980s. He bought the abandoned structure with the hope of finding someone to invest big-time money to rehabilitate and revive it. He says he has scored some near misses. He’s been disappointed. He pays the taxes annually on it. The building isn’t quite the eyesore that the Barfield has become.

I’ve been through the first two floors in the Herring. Granted, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. It is in surprisingly decent condition, however.

Some contacts I used to have who were involved in downtown revitalization have told me they foresee a viable future for the Herring. Many of those folks have moved on. I am not familiar with many among the current crop of brainiacs who are talking among themselves about what to do about the Herring.

Nor am I familiar with all that has taken place to date.

I simply am amazed that a hospitality management company has actually taken control of the Barfield and has actually begun work to bring that miserable hulk of a structure back to life.

I consider the Barfield to be among the worst examples of urban rot in downtown Amarillo. If they can find a new purpose for the Barfield, isn’t there a future to be found for the Herring?

It’s actually begun: work on the Barfield Building

This story remains a serious head-scratcher for me.

I’ll be glad to be proved wrong if and when the story concludes.

They have begun work on a 10-story eyesore in downtown Amarillo, Texas. The Barfield Building, which has gone through many fits and starts as it has decayed over the course of many years, is now in the first stages of a major makeover.

It will become a boutique hotel run by the Marriott company, which also operates a hotel down the street in the historic Fisk Building.

To be candid, I never though this project was possible. The Barfield, a once-proud structure on Sixth Avenue and Polk Street, has been shuttered while would-be developers have shuddered at the prospect of bringing it back to life.

The building’s former owner, Todd Harmon, sought over the years to get something done. He failed. Coury Hospitality is now the management partner and is handling the makeover as it proceeds.

My pal Dan Quandt, vice president of the Amarillo Convention and Visitors Council, told KFDA NewsChannel 10 that “We’ve been crying” for years for something good to happen to the Barfield. “It sadly went from being a proud lady to a kind of an eyesore and now they’re going to be redoing that.”

Actually, Dan, there’s no “kind of an eyesore” description needed. The building is a serious eyesore.

It’s going to carry the name of Barfield Marriott when it’s all done.

I no longer live in Amarillo, but my desire to see downtown Amarillo progress and evolve into something different and, hopefully, exciting hasn’t wavered. The Barfield project is a huge step forward for the city, which has granted serious tax credits and other financial incentives to help push this project forward.

Let us hope this task gets completed. I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised when they cut the ribbon and welcome the first guests into the new digs.

Then perhaps the city can turn its attention to another rotting structural hulk just a few blocks north. I refer to the Herring Hotel.

Might there be a brighter future in store there as well?

Yes on Barfield … what about the Herring?

A trip into downtown Amarillo, Texas, today brought to mind a question about the central district’s future.

If the Barfield Building — a seriously rotting hulk of a structure — can be targeted for renovation as a Marriott niche hotel, why can’t anyone come forward to revive an even more iconic structure, the Herring Hotel?

I am acutely aware that I am shooting from the hip, that there’s a lot about downtown redevelopment’s nuts and bolts that I don’t know.

I’m going to keep shooting, however.

I made the drive this morning down Third Avenue, past the Herring. I turned left on Polk Street and drove past the Barfield. As I looked at the Barfield’s busted windows and hideous exterior appearance, I thought immediately of the Herring, which looks at first (or even second) glance to be in better physical condition than the Barfield.

Robert Goodrich, a retired college professor of urban planning, has owned the Herring for quite a few years. He pays the taxes on it and seeks to find investors willing to sink some dough into reviving it. I’ve talked many times over the years to my friend Bob about the Herring. He is full of ideas and concepts. They include partial-use retail and apartment living plans.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am glad the Barfield might get a new lease on its long-abandoned life. It’s far from a done deal, even though a recent Amarillo Globe-News article on the Barfield offers encouragement to those who want to see the Barfield restored.

Many others, though, want the same thing for the Herring.

I’ve had the pleasure of walking through the ground floor of the Herring. I was working on a story for KFDA NewsChannel 10’s website when Goodrich took me on a tour of the building. I was stunned to note that the Herring is in relatively good condition. We didn’t walk into any of the upper floors. I’ve been told by city planners over the years that the Herring needs a lot of upgrading to bring it up to current building codes.

OK, now that I’ve emptied my rhetorical six-gun on the Herring, I am going to hope for the best, that my good pal Bob Goodrich — with some help from city economic planners — can restore what many Amarillo residents believe is a municipal treasure.

There is likely to be a time when virtually all of downtown Amarillo is shiny, new and vibrant. I cannot fathom the Herring Hotel standing alone forever as the city’s remaining multi-story eyesore.

What? Barfield is coming back to life? Maybe?

Well, shut my mouth and call me … whatever you want.

I had written not long ago about my doubts over the future of the long-abandoned Barfield Building in downtown Amarillo, Texas. It stands at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Polk Street. It’s a rotting hulk of its former glory.

http://highplainsblogger.com/?s=Barfield+Building

This morning I awoke to read a story in the Amarillo Globe-News that declares that the Barfield Building is en route to a revival. It will become a luxury hotel, developed by the Marriott Corporation.

Then came the qualifier. “Maybe,” according to the AGN. Maybe it will happen. Maybe … it won’t.

I’m going to pull for the “maybe it will.”

Plans call for the Barfield to morph into a Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel. It’s an upscale concept. As the Globe-News reports: “We want to bring the Barfield back to life and tell its story,” said Mark Brooks, of Brooks Hospitality Consulting. “We want to create something that speaks to Amarilloans. Hopefully, it’s pretty exciting.”

Brooks told the AGN’s Jeff Farris that the interior demolition at the Barfield is nearly done. Next up will be acquiring building permits from the city.

The Barfield has been down similar roads before. It’s been through several ownership changes. There have been reports of progress made to breathe new life into the building. They have been premature. Nothing has occurred there. As the AGN noted, the city came within a whisker of condemning the building.

This fellow Brooks, though, now is delivering some potentially good news about the Barfield. The category of hotel suggests it will be unique. Marriott says that none of its Autograph Collection structures are duplicates of others.

So, with this news, I am anxious to see if downtown Amarillo — which already has seen tremendous change in the past decade — is about to take another huge step forward. The multipurpose event venue is under construction. The Embassy Suites hotel has opened across the street from the Civic Center; Marriott opened another hotel prior to that at the historic Fisk Building. Construction crews are hard at work on new eateries and other business establishments along Polk Street. West Texas A&M University is set to open its downtown Amarillo campus.

And now? The Barfield Building? Is it possibly coming back to life? Might there be signs of activity in that dilapidated structure?

Maybe.

What will happen to the Barfield Building? Anything?

I have taken great pleasure in cheering on the progress I’ve witnessed in downtown Amarillo, Texas.

Abandoned buildings have been revived. New structures are being erected. Businesses are coming back into the district. They’ve broken ground on a new minor-league baseball park. Downtown is home to two first-class hotels.

Then we have the Barfield Building.

I drive by it a couple times a week and so help me, it seems as though every time I see that rotting hulk of a structure it looks more dilapidated than it does the previous time I looked at it.

I have lost track of the ownership changes that have occurred there. It’s been vacant for as long as my wife and I have lived in Amarillo; that’s more than 23 years.

An investor once started gutting the ground floor. Then the work stopped. The owner boarded up the floor. Nothing has happened since.

A Dallas-based investor took over the building with a promise to do something with it, or to it.

Then a consortium of local investors took it over.

That’s the last I heard of anything.

This past summer there was some reporting about tax incentives to turn the Barfield into a hotel/apartment structure. The incentives were to total $17 million.

The Amarillo Globe-News reported it as a possibility.

That was then. Nothing has happened.

I cannot help but think that a wrecking ball might be in the building’s future. The old Barfield Building keeps taking on the appearance of a structure that isn’t worth saving.

Barfield Building gets another look … maybe

I would love to cheer this bit of news regarding a long-standing downtown Amarillo eyesore.

I’m afraid I have to hold back the hoo-rah. You see, we’ve been down this path before — many times before, in fact.

The owners of the Barfield Building — at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Polk Street — have hired a Dallas architectural firm and will be seeking tax credits to help finance a project to turn the building into a downtown hotel. They’re looking at using the Barfield’s historical significance as a lure for the credits; they cite the Fisk Building’s conversion into a downtown hotel using about $16 million in tax credits.

Does any of this sound familiar regarding the Barfield Building? It should.

The building was erected in the late 1920s. It’s been vacant since the early 1990s. Its prior owner, Todd Harmon, couldn’t get anything done. Another investor, Tom Pauken, took ownership. He then handed it off to a local investment consortium. Now the current owners have enlisted the help of a firm to develop plans.

As I read the news report about the Barfield, I see words like “plans” and “hopeful.” I translate that kind of language into “pipe dream.”

Barfield may get aid

Don’t misconstrue my sentiments. I would applaud the renovation of the Barfield Building were it to come to fruition. Any effort to restore an old structure and return it to something of actual value is going to benefit the city.

However …

Have you seen the Barfield Building — lately? A construction team years ago managed to tear out the ground floor. Then work stopped. They boarded up the place to keep transients from using it as shelter.

We’ve hit starts and stops. Building owners and investors have come and gone. I’ve witnessed much of this during the 22 years I’ve lived in Amarillo.

I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m not yet ready to climb aboard this bandwagon. At least not yet.

Sometimes old makes way for new

polk street

This picture is of a building that’s coming down on Polk Street,  near Seventh Avenue, in downtown Amarillo.

A friend of mine, Wes Reeves, snapped it and posted it on social media earlier today.

I’ve known Reeves for many years and I have developed a keen affection for his own love of local history and things that are old and worth preserving.

Reeves loves old buildings. He believes communities must honor their past by doing all they can to preserve those vestiges of history.

He also noted as he posted this photo that there’s some good news accompanying the demolition of something old. It is that Amarillo is getting something new: a brew pub that is planned to be built in the city’s evolving downtown business-and-entertainment district.

Which brings me to the point here.

It is that the city is changing its central district personality.

Is the city going to forsake every single shred of history? Good heavens, no!

Amarillo already has preserved the historic Fisk Building and turned it into a classy hotel. Potter County has renovated the exterior of its courthouse, along with restoring and reviving the Santa Fe Building. There will be plenty of other restoration projects ahead; I’m hoping — along with the rest of the city — for eventual restoration of the Barfield Building and the Herring Hotel.

The new features, though, ought to be as welcome here as efforts to preserve the old ones.

And no doubt about it, we’re getting plenty of new business.

Yes, downtown is changing. That change necessarily means we have to make way for the change. If it involves the occasional removal of something old that no longer is functional, well, I’m all for that, too.

Let the change continue.

Downtown revival far from total

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I have made no secret of my enthusiastic support for the steps Amarillo has taken toward the revival of the city’s downtown business district.

It’s been dramatic and at some level actually breathtaking. The construction activity along Buchanan is a sight to behold. The Potter County Courthouse restoration is a thing of beauty. Polk Street looks healthier than it has in the past 20 years.

I am awaiting the groundbreaking of the downtown ballpark, which I hope occurs sometime this year — and that we’ll get some high-quality minor-league baseball in the shiny new venue.

Downtown’s revival, though, isn’t as comprehensive as perhaps it ought to be.

If you venture just a bit west along Sixth Avenue and north along Harrison, Tyler or Van Buren streets, you see signs of lingering urban blight.

Yes, we have that crappy-looking Barfield Building at the corner of Sixth and Polk. And the Herring Hotel building, which was supposed to have been sold to a deep-pocketed investor with big plans to bring it back to life? Well, that project has suffered another setback.

I am aware that the downtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone has boundaries. The TIRZ area sets aside property value increases to develop downtown projects. A good bit of the area just outside those boundaries seems to cry out for attention.

Weeds are sprouting along sidewalks. Parcels of land have gone unattended.

It looks bad, boys and girls.

While I will continue to cheer on any and all efforts to revive downtown, which is essential to the city’s future growth — indeed, its very future — my hope is that attention can be focused on those areas just beyond the blocks that are getting all this tender loving care.

I will keep the faith that the city will spread its TLC to blocks in dire need of it.

Are we going to be timid about city’s future?

Leaps of faith require a certain degree of risk.

We take them at various stages of our life. When we change careers; when we move from one part of the country to another; there’s even a leap of faith that occurs when you commit yourself to someone for the rest of your life.

The great thing about faith, though, is that if it’s strong enough, it can carry you through. You rely totally on it.

So it might be with Amarillo City Hall’s grand new plan for its downtown district. It might well require us to take a leap of faith that a new direction for the city is worth the effort.

I’m still dumbstruck by the timidity I keep hearing from those who for whatever reason — real or imagined — feel somewhat intimidated by what’s being proposed for the downtown district’s future.

Planners want to build an athletic/entertainment venue. They want to construct a downtown convention hotel. They are planning to build a parking structure. Three building are going to be built downtown. The aim is as plain as it gets: They want to reshape downtown. They want it to become something of an entertainment attraction.

What is it now? Well, it’s really more or less … how do I say it nicely, nothing to brag about. At least not yet.

It’s come some distance from where it was, say, 20 years ago. The Santa Fe Building is bustling with Potter County government activity; Polk Street is slowly coming back to life; that big ol’ Chase Tower is full — for the time being — but it will lose a lot of tenants when Xcel Energy and West Texas A&M University vacate the tower for new digs elsewhere.

Xcel’s and WT’s departure from the Chase Tower, therefore, isn’t a net loss for the downtown district. It’s a net plus.

There’s movement, finally, on the Barfield Building at the corner of Sixth and Polk.

The leap of faith will occur when the multipurpose event venue is built and the city starts to promote it for a wide range of activity. It will rely on hotel-motel tax revenue to keep it going. The convention hotel is tied directly to the MPEV. It, too, will require some serious marketing and promotion.

It’s time to keep the faith, man.

I am acutely aware of the need to improve the Civic Center. That, too, will come eventually, at least that’s my hope. And what about the old Herring Hotel building on the northern edge of the downtown district? Believe it or not, downtown leaders tell me they believe there is a place for the Herring, that it can be renovated and turned into something not yet envisioned or imagined. It, too, requires a leap of faith.

I am willing to take that leap. My faith in the potential for success makes it possible.