Tag Archives: Barfield Building

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.

Abandoned building gets another new owner

Is this it? Is this the corner that an abandoned, dilapidated, rotting hulk of a downtown Amarillo office building needs to return to life?

A Dallas developer, Tom Pauken, has just foreclosed on the long-abandoned Barfield Building, wrestling it away from its owner who’s said for longer than anyone can remember that, by golly, he’s going to find someone to develop the structure.

Todd Harmon hasn’t delivered the goods. From where I sit, it doesn’t appear that he ever will.

Enter the group headed by Pauken, a lawyer, real estate developer who’s worked with property in Amarillo, former Texas Republican Party chairman — and a longtime friend of yours truly. (I thought I’d throw that last thing in for grins and giggles.)

Pauken leads a group called Henderson Willis Ltd., which has foreclosed on mortgage notes totaling about $550,000 on the building at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Polk Street.

It’s a complicated procedure, but as of today Pauken’s limited partnership has control of the Barfield Building. The former controlling owner, Harmon, so far hasn’t responded to media requests for comment.

Pauken’s foreclosure comes as well after another Amarillo business group sought to develop the Barfield Building, only to have Harmon get it back in some more complicated maneuvering.

What is Pauken’s aim here? He wants to find someone to invest in breathing life back into the Barfield Building. Harmon had gutted the ground floor and a few floors above. Then the work stopped. The ground floor was boarded up and the crews walked away; that was a decade ago.

It has sat vacant, rotting ever since.

Pauken said he believes the Barfield “is a natural” for some sort of redevelopment. Harmon had sought to turn the 88-year-old building into a combination of apartments, retail shops, a restaurant, day spa, bank branch, coffee house — and Lord knows what else.

Enter the Pauken group, headed by someone who’s already had some success redeveloping property in downtown Amarillo.

Can this group do what no one else has been able to do? I am cautiously optimistic my pal Tom can get ‘er done.