Tag Archives: Fort Worth

This is not just an urban pipe dream

FORT WORTH — Gideon Toal …

That name came to mind today as we approached Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth. I now shall explain what that is and why it’s relevant.

Gideon Toal is the name of a Fort Worth-based urban planning outfit that Amarillo officials enlisted when they began discussing the notion of reviving the Texas Panhandle city’s downtown district.

The thought at the time, as I recall it, was that if Gideon Toal could bring some of the creativity to Amarillo, then the city could adopt those ideas and apply them to whatever master plan the city fathers and mothers could develop.

We went to Fort Worth today to look around and soak up the atmosphere of the city’s downtown district. It had been a good while since my wife and I ventured into downtown Cow Town. It is the day after Christmas and it was fairly quiet today. However, I was blown away, as I was the first time I came here, with the enormous variety of cultural opportunities around virtually every corner surrounding Sundance Square.

Then the thought occurred to me: Is this kind of atmsophere — on a scaled-down version — even possible in Amarilo, which is in the midst of its downtown revival?

Scaled down? Yes. Amarillo’s population is peeking over the 200,000-resident mark; Fort Worth’s census is something well north of 800,000. What’s more, Fort Worth is one of two major anchor communities of the Metroplex, which has a metro-area population exceeding 7 million residents.

Melissa Dailey, the former head of Downtown Amarillo Inc., enlisted Gideon Toal way back when. She left DAI eventually and moved to Fort Worth. I’ve lost touch with her. However, the idea of hiring an organization with a demonstrated record of success was an inspired choice.

I have argued on this blog in favor of what the city is trying to achieve with its downtown district. I applaud the incentives it has employed to get private businesses to do business downtown. The payoffs are presenting themselves routinely, with hotels, dining establishments, the championship AA baseball team and assorted forms of boutique retail business coming into the downtown district.

As we walked around Sundance Square and along some of the streets adjacent to it, I got a sense of a certain type of familiarity. I have heard from my friends in Amarillo that they want to see the city turn its downtown district into something similar to what has been born in Fort Worth.

And no, I don’t mean identical. Amarillo cannot duplicate what Fort Worth has developed. It can adapt some form of it to fit its own level of resource.

My hope for Amarillo is that it keeps Fort Worth in mind as it moves forward on its downtown revival track. They have hit a home run in Cow Town.

AQHA now the subject of a ‘stay in Amarillo’ petition

A friend in Fort Worth sent me a message a while ago telling me about reports surfacing over there about the American Quarter Horse Association possibly relocating from Amarillo to Cow Town.

I called Fort Worth City Hall and confirmed that there was a City Council agenda item dealing with a possible permit request from AQHA. The City Hall source couldn’t confirm that AQHA was set to pull up stakes and move from Amarillo to Fort Worth.

Now I see a social media link from another friend of mine that deals with a petition drive — begun my Mayor Ginger Nelson — that seeks to keep AQHA in Amarillo. There’s no mention of where the AQHA museum would go, only that it is seeking support calling for it to remain up yonder in the Panhandle.

To quote the comic Arsenio Hall, it’s one of those things that “makes me go ‘hmmm.'”

The message notes that AQHA has been in Amarillo since 1949. It was formed to salute the impact that horse-breeding has on working ranches throughout the entire High Plains region, which includes the Oklahoma Panhandle and much of eastern New Mexico.

The post concludes: “Amarillo and Canyon Citizens: Help us tell the story of AQHA and why it is important that they stay here along the I-40 corridor where millions of people travel through Texas. Let’s show some AQUA love. Let’s save the horses.”

They have even developed a hashtag: #PleaseStayAQHA.

I have determined, therefore, that two plus two still equals four. My Fort Worth friend well might be on to something with regard to the future of the AQHA.

It truly would be a shame if the association vacates Amarillo for another Texas community.

Check out the petition information here.

It looks to me as if something is afoot.

Happy Trails, Part 160: Reaping benefit of ‘choices’

As you know by now our retirement journey has taken us from Amarillo to Princeton in Texas. Our No. 1 priority is to be near our granddaughter. Mission accomplished on that matter.

A lesser priority in my own mind was to be nearer to what one of my sons refers to as “choices.” That is, to be able to partake of entertainment offerings without having to drive great distances to enjoy them.

One of those “choices” presented himself Friday night. Sir Paul McCartney took the stage at a concert venue about 50 miles west of us. So, my other son was able to get a couple of tickets and he invited dear ol’ Dad to join him way up yonder in the nosebleed section of Globe Life Park in Arlington.

I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me on this point: My wife and I enjoyed a wonderful life in Amarillo, Texas, which was our home for 23 years. We lived there nearly half our married life together. We had a wonderful house built and we made it our home. We enjoyed making it look pretty and presentable.

We also learned a fact of life about living in West Texas: If you need to see anything you need to get in your car and drive … a long way! It’s not that Amarillo and its immediate surroundings aren’t without their charms. Let’s get real. You can grow tired of seeing the same attractions over and over. To be candid, we did tire of it.

Now, though, we have settled into new digs just northeast of Dallas. Therefore, when I had the chance to drive about an hour west to Fort Worth’s front porch to see a top-drawer entertainment act — such as Sir Paul McCartney — why, I jumped at it!

Bear in mind, Sir Paul once belonged to a band, The Beatles, that helped raise me. I do not say that out of any ill will toward my parents or other elder members of my family. He and his mates crafted music that I enjoy to this very day. And I will do so until, well, I am no longer listening to any music … if you get my drift.

We now have “choices.” I intend to partake of more of them as they present themselves. Yes, indeed. Life is good. Especially since I no longer have to drive all day to enjoy them.

‘Affluenza teen’ gets jail time … finally!


Ethan Couch is headed to jail.

He should have been there all along. He got a light sentence: probation. For what? Oh, for killing four people in a motor vehicle accident in Fort Worth while driving a pickup truck. He was roaring drunk, at least three times over the minimum legal limit.

But then came the astonishing defense that the judge apparently swallowed. Couch’s lawyer said the young man suffered from “affluenza,” having been raised in a wealthy family, by parents who failed to teach him right from wrong.

Then the kid went on probation, only to violate the terms of his sentence. He was caught drinking. He fled the country, ending up in Mexico — with the assistance of his mother.

It’s good that he was caught. Couch, who was 16 at the time of his crime, has just turned 19. Texas law doesn’t allow much of a jail sentence because the young man was a juvenile when he committed the original crime.

But at least he’s going to serve nearly two years in the slammer.

I’m glad to see that the young man will get what was due at the beginning.

Now, how about throwing the book at his mother — Tonya Couch — for aiding and abetting his escape from justice?

Amarillo need not replicate other cities’ success


When I get a chance to travel to other cities that can boast of robust downtown districts, I often think of the community I’ve called home for more than 21 years.

Amarillo is in the midst of a serious downtown revival. They’ve broken up some pavement, leveled some land, poured some slabs and begun erecting structures downtown.

More of it is on the way.

I just returned from a few days visiting my hometown, Portland, Ore. It’s gone through a decades-long downtown revival that’s still on-going. Heck, it might never end.

That city turned a moribund downtown district into a rousing, sometimes raucous place where people enjoy a robust night life and spend a little time and money shopping in retail establishments.

I’ve written about what I saw on my latest visit to Portland. However, I do not want anyone to presume that I believe what the Rose City has done can be replicated here on the Texas Tundra.

Portland’s municipal population is approaching 625,000 residents, with about 2.2 million folks living in a sprawling metropolitan area that covers several counties — and even reaches across the Columbia River into Washington state.

Amarillo’s population is just a shade less than 200,000, with a metro population nearly double that amount.

Do we have the resources here to replicate what other larger cities have done? No.

My intent in calling attention to what Portland has done, or what Oklahoma City or Fort Worth have done with their downtown districts, is remind us here in little ol’ Amarillo that we must think creatively.

All three of the cities I’ve mentioned — Portland, Fort Worth and OKC — have done so. Oklahoma City used a public investment tax to rebuild warehouse district into Bricktown; Fort Worth used some public/private investment in creating Sundance Square; Portland scrapped a planned highway project and redirected money into creating a robust downtown district.

Amarillo has developed a Strategic Action Plan that took form after years of public hearings and discussion. It, too, involves public and private money. Indeed, the vast majority of downtown Amarillo’s progress has occurred with private money. The city created a downtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone that uses money derived from increases in property value within that zone to help finance needed projects.

We’re thinking creatively here. That, I submit, is the first step in a long march toward revival.

Do the city, civic and business brain trusts think we can emulate dollar for dollar what bigger cities have done? I hope not.

They shouldn’t shy away from doing what they can, however,  with what they have.

Shocker! Cruz wins Texas GOP poll

Boy, that’s a shocker … not!

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tea Party, won the Texas Republican Party’s presidential straw poll.

Stop the presses!


Cruz has become the poster boy for virtually all statewide GOP office seekers this election cycle. They want his endorsement, their pictures taken with him, sound bites with Cruz saying their name, pictures of him kissing their small children … you name it, Cruz is The Man if you’re a Texas Republican.

Perhaps the real surprise of the straw poll is that Gov. Rick Perry finished fourth. Perry is now thought widely to be considering another run for the presidency in 2016. He’s a lame duck governor and he’s not going out with a whimper. He’s going out with a whoop and a holler and veiled promise to keep himself available for speaking gigs, fundraisers and other things political.

The Texas GOP gathering is wrapping in Fort Worth. Republicans have good reason to be feeling giddy. They hold every elected statewide office available. One of them, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Larry Meyers, switched to the Democratic Party this past year and is running for the state Supreme Court as such — so he doesn’t really count as a Democratic statewide officeholder.

Our state Republican infatuation with Ted Cruz, though, is fascinating to watch. The young man has hit just about every Republican hot button there is to hit.

He kind of reminds of Perry in that regard.

And think, also, of the delightful contest if both Cruz and Perry decide to run for president in two years.

I can’t wait.

Visiting urban oasis

FORT WORTH, Texas — This is what downtown living should look like.

We’re here for a quick visit and are enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of an urban environment that other cities should emulate.

Indeed, Amarillo — where we live — is seeking to do precisely that. On a smaller scale, of course.

Fort Worth has the Bass family to underwrite a lot of projects. Amarillo doesn’t that kind of resource available. Our city is seeking to use Fort Worth’s urban revival as a model. It cannot have picked a better one.

The Trinity River walking/jogging paths are a lovely attraction. Amarillo doesn’t have that kind of natural wonder running through it. We enjoyed a quiet walk this morning before the heat settled in. It was quiet and serene.

Downtown proper has its famous Sundance Square, which is a hopping and happening place at night. Can little old Amarillo replicate that? I have no clue at this point.

City planners are seeking to do what they can with what they have. Fort Worth’s success has become something of a legend among urban planners.

The downtown district bustles once the sun sets. Amarillo’s is busy enough during daylight hours. At night? It’s not happening, at least not yet.

I remain hopeful. We love coming to Fort Worth whenever we can … if only to dream about what our city one day hopes to become.