Tag Archives: Herring Hotel

What gives with the Herring building?

AMARILLO, Texas — I hear things all the time. Friends and acquaintances who know what I used to do for a living whisper things to me in the hope they get my attention.

Well … I heard something about the Herring Hotel that I want to discuss briefly here. I cannot go into much detail, because I don’t know too many details about it. However, I trust the source of what I heard.

My friend informed that the Herring Hotel — on the northern edge of downtown Amarillo — is likely to be purchased by a hotel/apartment developer who wants to convert the long-abandoned hotel into a mixed-use structure. The developer supposedly plans to purchase it from Bob Goodrich, the owner of the property who’s been looking for many years for someone to repurpose the building once known as the place to go, the place to be and the place to be seen. 

I have written previously on this blog about my hope that the Herring Hotel could find new life. I have known Goodrich for many years. He is not an investor, or a developer. He does have a background in urban planning. He bought the Herring many years ago and has been paying the property taxes annually on the structure.

Am I certain of what I heard? I cannot commit to a willingness to betting my life and all my worldly possessions on it. However, I did get it confirmed the next day by someone else who said he has heard the same thing. What gives this tidbit its legs is that the individuals with whom I have discussed it have little to do with each other.

And so it goes. Or so I hope it goes.

Taking stock of a city’s changing face

AMARILLO, Texas — I thoroughly enjoy returning to this city, where my wife and I lived for more than two decades.

We arrived here in early 1995 and found a city with a boarded-up downtown, buildings were empty, there was little life to be found. The community had allowed its retail activity to vacate the downtown district to malls large, medium and small to points hither and yon.

We returned here on our latest visit to find — as we have noticed on previous visits to the Texas Panhandle — a city that is bearing a decreasing resemblance to the community my wife and I discovered when he first set foot on the Caprock.

Yes, much work remains to be done. The Barfield Building — the once-rotting hulk of a structure at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Polk Street — is still under reconstruction. I hear the building will open this spring as a boutique hotel. All I was able to notice today were all the windows that had been re-paned and the construction crews scurrying around the grounds.

All along Polk Street — the city’s one-time main drag — I noticed storefronts that once stared at the street blankly that are alive with activity.

We had lunch at a new pub downtown, next to an after-hours spot that had relocated from across the street. Meanwhile, the former site of the after-hours joint is being remade into something else.

To be sure, I did notice a blemish or two in downtown Amarillo. The Family Support Services building on Polk has been destroyed by fire. The city has cordoned off the entire block.

The Globe-News building on the outskirts of downtown sits blank, vacated. The sight of that structure now devoid of life breaks my heart, as I spent nearly 18 mostly enjoyable years there pursuing my craft as the G-N’s editorial page editor.

On the north edge of downtown sits the Herring Hotel. It is still vacant. I cannot yet confirm this report, but I’ll offer it anyway: I have heard from two sources that the Herring might be given new life — possibly soon — with the purchase of the building by a hotel developer. This isn’t the first time I have seen this sort of glimmer from the once-glorious structure. Let us hope that it comes to pass and that the buyer — if the deal is consummated — is the real thing.

I remain hopeful that Amarillo’s future will continue to brighten as it keeps working to restore the heart of the city.

I don’t believe I am overstating what my wife and I saw when we first arrived. We saw a city with a downtown that need a sort of urban renewal life support. What we have seen on our most recent visit is a downtown district that is breathing on its own.

It makes me so very happy.

Come clean on the Herring Hotel: Go or no go?

Let me reaffirm what I believe should happen regarding the fate of a long-vacant structure on the outskirts of downtown Amarillo, Texas.

While developers and investors spruce up other dilapidated structures in the city’s central business district, the Herring Hotel sits there quietly. Its owner, Bob Goodrich, has been seeking some interest in the building for the many years he has been paying taxes on it.

I believe it is time for the city’s power structure — which doesn’t own the building, but which is heavily involved in approving incentives for other property downtown — to deliver the details on what it believes is hindering the Herring Hotel’s possible rebirth.

A number of agencies operating under the city’s umbrella have been involved in some level with negotiations regarding the Herring Hotel. I refer to the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, Center City, the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, senior city administrative staff, the Convention and Visitors Council, the Chamber of Commerce. Am I missing anyone?

Well, whatever. The city would be well-advised to offer some sort of statement to the public as to what is happening or not happening with the Herring Hotel. It’s been vacant since the 1970s. The Herring used to serve as the go-to site for practically every social event of consequence in Amarillo. Then it was closed up.

I haven’t been intimately involved in the Herring’s story, but I do know the owner. I am aware of several near misses regarding efforts to land investors who would pour money into reviving the structure.

With all the attention being paid to buildings such as the Barfield, the Rule, the Santa Fe, the Potter County Courthouse, the Kress, the Fisk — not to mention the relocation of several businesses along Polk Street — the Herring just sits there!

Is there a future for the building? Or will it continue to rot? Will it continue to serve as downtown Amarillo’s pre-eminent eyesore?

I believe there are some details about the future of the Herring that ought to be aired out. Is anyone listening at City Hall?

What must Herring Hotel owner be thinking?

I haven’t talked to the owner of the long-vacant Herring Hotel in downtown Amarillo, Texas, for a good while. I know Bob Goodrich quite well. He’s a nice man, a conscientious property owner — and a fellow with big dreams for the building that once served as the go-to spot for Amarillo’s social elite.

That all stipulated, Goodrich must be steamed as he reads about other abandoned downtown buildings finding new life. The latest such structure is the Rule Building, which developer Todd Harmon wants to turn into a boutique hotel. Then there’s the Barfield Building, which is going to open soon as boutique lodging.

Other structures are finding life, or are being repurposed into something other than their original use.

Then there’s the Herring Hotel building. It sits there. Vacant and rotting. Goodrich pays the taxes on it every year. He seeks developers and investors. He once called me to say he had a potential investor lined up; then the deal fell through.

Someone who at the time had intimate knowledge of downtown Amarillo’s redevelopment efforts told me years ago he was certain there would be a happy ending to the Herring Hotel saga. This individual is no longer part of the downtown in-crowd and, of course, I have retired from daily journalism and have relocated to another community. It’s quite possible this person didn’t know what he was talking about, but … well, that’s grist for another story — maybe. 

I do have a parting thought. Perhaps there ought to be a statement from the downtown redevelopment gurus addressing the reasons why the Herring Hotel continues to sit quietly with no apparent action on the horizon. Center City? The Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone board? City Hall? The Amarillo Matters PAC? The Convention and Visitors Council? Amarillo EDC?

Might there be some way to reveal to the nosey segments of the public what they think they need to know about the Herring Hotel? Is there a future for the building … or not?

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.

It’s worth asking: Is there a future for the Herring Hotel?

As thrilled as I am to watch downtown Amarillo, Texas, redevelop and revive its downtown business district, I remain perplexed about the apparent (lack of) future of a one-time iconic structure at the northern edge of that revival.

Yes, I refer to the Herring Hotel.

The Herring Hotel once was the go-to location in Amarillo. It was the center of the city’s high society, its old-money establishment. It was the place to see and to be seen.

If you needed a venue for a high-dollar party, you went to the Herring Hotel. If you wanted to show out-of-town guests the finest the city had to offer, you took ’em to the Herring Hotel.

Those glory days are long gone. It’s been vacant for decades. It has been allowed to rot and fester. It is in decay.

However, to my untrained eye, the Herring Hotel is not beyond the point of salvation. I mean, if an investor can be found to sink millions of  bucks into the rebirth of the Barfield Building — a structure I long was in far worse shape than the Herring — then what in the world is keeping such investment away from the massive Herring Hotel?

The owner of the Herring property, Bob Goodrich, once took me on a tour of the structure while I was working part-time as a freelance blogger for KFDA NewsChannel 10. We walked through the ground floor and to be candid, I was startled to see the relatively good condition of what used to be the hotel foyer.

Goodrich, a retired academician, bought the Herring for a song. He’s been paying the taxes on it for a number of years He also has been seeking someone — anyone — to take the hotel off his hands and find a new use for a building that Goodrich believes still has life left in it.

Goodrich reportedly has come close to making a major announcement regarding the Herring Hotel. There has been chatter about mixed-use redevelopment for the building: a combination of lodging, retail space, loft apartments. Then nothing happens.

The hotel sits in the midst of the city’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, an area that sets aside tax revenue increases within the zone and commits it to redevelopment of property and “public infrastructure.” It appears that the TIRZ board hasn’t seen much future for the Herring Hotel.

To be candid, this subtle rejection puzzles me.

I am wondering whether Amarillo can fill in a gigantic hole in its downtown redevelopment by luring a qualified investor who can find a credible use for a structure that once stood as a beacon along the High Plains.

My hope springs eternal.

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?

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.

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.