Tag Archives: Polk Street

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.

Is it time to put up … or then shut up?

Accusations have been flying all over Amarillo of late.

They have involved the sale of the Commerce Building downtown and whether the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation overpaid for the site. They also have involved allegations of secret meetings, back-room insider deals, back-scratching among ultra-rich friends.

The downtown Amarillo redevelopment effort has begun moving forward. There’s now some talk of it all being stalled — or perhaps blown apart — if the top level of city management is forced out. There might be some kind of vote to decide if residents really want to build multipurpose event venue planned for a vacant piece of property just south of City Hall. The vote might occur against the backdrop of the allegations that have been leveled.

I haven’t yet seen any evidence of something improper, let alone illegal, going on here.

We’ve had a well-publicized public forum at the Civic Center. We’ve had public hearing after public hearing on the three-pronged project — MPEV, downtown hotel and parking garage. We’ve seen detailed analyses of how the city believes the MPEV can work for the city, how the hotel proposal is tied to the MPEV’s construction and how economic developers intend to convert Polk Street into an entertainment district that could be an inducement to keep young people from leaving their hometown for places that boast of a little more pizzazz.

The doubters persist. They continue to cast aspersions not just on the project, but on the motives of those who support it.

I’m just a guy who lives in Amarillo with my wife. We pay our taxes regularly every year. We enjoy living here. We also want to see our city develop, evolve and become something more than just a place along Interstate 40 where people stop overnight en route to points east and west.

These allegations are troubling to me only in this regard: They come with zero evidence, just assertions.

I welcome healthy debate, as we all should welcome it. I do not welcome the ugliness that crept into it long ago and which persists to the detriment of what many of us want for our city.