Tag Archives: Center City of Amarillo

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.

Downtown recovering much of its past glory

I watched as my friend Beth Duke was beaming the other day while she discussed the progress being made along Polk Street in downtown Amarillo, Texas.

Duke, executive director of Center City of Amarillo, has been at the forefront of Amarillo’s downtown resurgence. She was telling a TV news reporter about the planned opening of a number of new eateries coming into the central business district.

It is occurring to me that what used to be known as the “business district” is about to become the city’s “entertainment district.”

And yet …

I keep hearing the muted rumblings of discontent from some Amarillo residents about he progress that’s occurring in the heart of a city that is on the cusp of achieving the 200,000-resident mark.

Some businesses are moving around, relocating along Polk Street. The city also is welcoming a number of new establishments.

Polk Street, where teenagers used to “cruise” back in the day, is being given new life. It’s no longer the retail corridor it used to be during the day. Instead, it will become a magnet for nightlife.

It’s all part of of a municipal long-range strategic plan, according to Duke, who has brought a unique blend of enthusiasm and deep knowledge of the players who can breathe life into a community where she was born and has spent the vast bulk of her adult life.

And while Polk Street is undergoing its extreme makeover, so is the block on which City Hall sits.

If you look south from City Hall’s front door you see a lot of dirt being moved around. Crews are leveling the property that once contained the Coca-Cola Distribution Center, which was demolished and relocated to a business park at the northeast corner of the city.

Construction will begin very soon on the multipurpose event venue, aka “The Ballpark.” The MPEV doesn’t yet have a name. It will have a significant new tenant by the spring of 2019. It will be a AA baseball franchise that’s moving here from San Antonio. They’re going to play hardball at the MPEV/Ballpark.

What’s more, that storefronts being developed along Polk Street will be bustling with activity.

My wife and I likely won’t around when they throw out the first pitch at the MPEV. We will have relocated to an unknown destination in North Texas. However, we are going to remember how downtown looked when we arrived here in early 1995 and we will compare that desolate memory with what we’re witnessing these days.

What I see happening today are the signs of progress that, to be candid, I didn’t foresee when we first laid eyes on Amarillo more than two decades ago.

I am delighted to the max at what we’re seeing.

I also am proud of my friend Beth Duke, who has witnessed — and played a key role — in the rebirth of her hometown’s central business/entertainment district.

Again I ask: How in the world can we gripe about that?

State gives blessing to Amarillo cultural district


Amarillo has plenty of art. It has equal measures of culture. It also has an organization dedicated to bringing the city’s art and culture to those who otherwise just be passing through Amarillo on their way to points east, west, north and south.

The Texas Commission on the Arts has bestowed the city with a cultural district that, according to Center City of Amarillo, will enable the city to focus on the art and cultural offerings it has to lure travelers to stay awhile.


Amarillo joins a number of other cities that have received this designation. One of them is Lubbock, where officials say they’ve enjoyed some success in planning events aimed at attracting folks to stay in the Hub City.

According to NewsChannel 10, “It literally puts Amarillo on the map and it shows that we have the quality and quantity of the art to make Amarillo a cultural destination,” said Beth Duke, Executive Director of Center City. “So, we intend to use this to promote tourism to bring more people to Amarillo and more importantly to the cultural district.”

What all this means in a tangible sense is that the cultural district becomes a lure for those who (a) are just passing through or (b) might be spending a night or two to see some of our more well-known sights.

The idea as I understand  the cultural district is to showcase the myriad art, entertainment and cultural events occurring around the city. The cultural district involves the downtown district — which is the midst of a major makeover — Historic Route 66, Sunset Center, and the neighborhood around Amarillo College.

And oh yes, we have that ballpark that’s about to begin sprouting up across from City Hall.

The city has received a 10-year cultural district designation. After that time, it will need to be renewed. I am going to send plenty of good vibes out to help ensure the city’s cultural district takes root, grows and proves to be the economic driver that Beth Duke and others envision.

The times are a-changin’ out here on the Caprock.

Downtown Amarillo is getting even more life

This news hit me hard — in a good way.

The old Woolworth Building in downtown Amarillo is now slated for a seriously cool revival.

It’s a historic structure at 626 South Polk Street. It’s going to be home to two new restaurants. One of them will occupy the entire second floor of the old structure.


Center City made the announcement at its weekly High Noon on the Square event on the lawn in front of the Potter County Courthouse.

This is good news on a couple of levels.

The first one is quite obvious, given that local investors are willing to put up the money to develop the building for two new businesses into the downtown district that’s already undergoing a major facelift just a few blocks from the Woolworth site.

The Embassy Suites hotel is rising above Buchanan Street across from the Civic Center. Xcel Energy’s building has been growing as well about a block south. Between those construction sites we’re going to witness the construction of a parking garage.

As near as I can tell — and from what I’ve heard who have lived in Amarillo a lot longer than I have — it’s been a very long time since we’ve seen this kind of heavy construction downtown.

Many of us, though, are holding out hope that the main event will commence with construction of the multipurpose event venue across the street from City Hall.

I happen to be one of those who remains cautiously optimistic that the MPEV/ballpark will join the city’s roster of new attractions.

Over at the Woolworth building, we’ll see a pizza joint on the first floor and a steak-and-seafood eatery on the second floor.

How can one look askance at increasing jobs and business activity downtown?

Now for the second element of this story.

It’s going to preserve a beautiful building. It opened as a dime store in 1947, becoming a place where residents would congregate downtown. It harkens back to a lively era in the city’s downtown district.

So, nearly 70 years later — and many years after the building came to life the first time — it’s getting new life.

And the city is taking another big step forward in its evolution.

Amarillo would benefit from arts/culture designation


It took me some time to get my arms around it, but it finally happened.

Amarillo officials want the Texas Commission on the Arts to designate a portion of the city as an arts and culture district.

It won’t happen overnight. It might take a year or even longer for the arts folks in Austin to make that designation. From what I’ve been able to learn about it, the district’s creation will contribute to the city’s evolution into what some groups and leaders believe could turn the city into an arts destination.

I met recently with my good friend Beth Duke, the executive director of Center City, which is spearheading this effort. Duke knows the city inside and out, up and down, in and out. You name it, she knows it. She’s lived here all her life and for 30 years she covered the city in several capacities as a reporter and editor for the Amarillo Globe-News.

She transitioned years ago into her new role as an effective and articulate spokesman/advocate for her hometown.

Duke told me she has heard over many years how surprised visitors to Amarillo are when they learn about the art that is offered here.

She talked about all the performing arts: symphony, opera, theater, Broadway play series. She talked also about the visual arts: museums, art galleries and outdoor art exhibits such as, say, Cadillac Ranch.

The Cadillacs? I know what you’re thinking. The exhibit just west of the city is little more than a conversation piece. But take a look on a sunny day at the number of vehicles parked on the access road next to The Ranch. Duke thinks the Cadillacs can become a major draw for visitors.

The district encompasses a good chunk of downtown Amarillo, Sixth Avenue, Wolflin and the San Jacinto neighborhood.

What does it mean for the city in tangible terms?

It means the city could apply for grants to promote certain exhibits or performances that come to town.

In the longer term, though, it means, according to Duke, that visitors who come here might be enticed into staying an extra day or two once they discover what they can enjoy. They might want to tour the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, on the West Texas A&M University campus. They might discover Palo Duro Canyon just a bit east of there and south of Amarillo. They might want to tour the Amarillo Museum of Art, or take a gander at the galleries that occupy what used to be a significant shopping mall at the Sunset Center.

It’s impossible, it appears, to put a precise dollar amount on the impact such a designation would have on Amarillo. I happen to believe the impact could be significant.

It is important to note, though, that Amarillo isn’t exactly blazing a trail in this regard. The state already has established 26 such districts — including one in Lubbock, which has its share of events annually that bring significant tourist revenue to that city.

OK, so we’re not the first to climb onto the arts and culture district bandwagon.

The way I figure it, though, there’s still plenty of room aboard it.


A ‘cultural district’ for Amarillo? Fascinating

center city

As if Amarillo isn’t going through enough change with its evolving downtown landscape, now comes an interesting concept from Center City.

Let’s create a cultural district designed to promote the arts in this city. So says Center City director Beth Duke, who believes the city is ripe for a grant that could be applied to promoting the arts.

It would run from Western Street to Grant Street. It would include several art venues, such as the Little Theater, the Globe-News performing arts center, Sunset Center Art Galleries and the Civic Center.

I’m still trying to wrap my noggin around the notion.

However, as with most new ideas, this one seems worth a close look.

According to NewsChannel 10: “We can promote it as a unified cultural district for tourism,” said Duke. “We can go out for special grants, and it may lead to some more events and some more partnerships.”

The city could be venturing into some fascinating new territory here.

Duke said the city will apply soon for the grant and will learn fairly quickly after that whether it will receive funds to apply to this concept.

The proverbial light bulb came on recently in my own head about the downtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone. TIRZ board chairman Scott Bentley explained it to me in simple enough language for even little ol’ me to understand it.

So it might have to be with the cultural district idea that Center City is pitching.

I’m willing to listen to it.

The payoff seems a bit distant as I consider how the creation of such a district would work.

Then again, isn’t that why God created marketing specialists to figure these things out?