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?