I have been commenting from time to time about the extreme makeover under way in downtown Amarillo.
Given that I don’t get out quite as much as I did when I worked for a living, I recently discovered another makeover project for which many Randall County employees — and perhaps residents, too — have been waiting.
We were driving south on Western Street when I shot a glance to the right and noticed a building that used to house an insurance company. Eventually, it’s going to house the Randall County Courthouse Annex.
Work on the building is well under way.
County Judge Ernie Houdashell told me some weeks ago about the purchase of the old Nationwide building and the realization of his longtime effort to relocate the county annex from its cramped quarters at South Georgia Street and Interstate 27.
I give Houdashell a huge dose of credit for bringing this project together. He had dickered and bickered with the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation to sell the Nationwide structure to the county. AEDC apparently had some issues that it was able to resolve with the county.
So now the county owns the structure and is refitting it to meet its needs.
The annex does the vast majority of the county’s tax business, even though the county seat is in Canyon, about 15 miles south of Amarillo, which straddles the Randall-Potter County line. Amarillo contains about 75 percent of Randall County’s population and generates about 80 percent of the tax revenue used to finance county government.
The annex will include the auto registration operation, along with a sheriff’s department presence and Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace court. I cannot recall the precise square footage increase that the county will get in the new structure, but I am aware that it’s going to be substantially more than it has at the Georgia Street site.
What’s going to happen to the current annex building? Houdashell hopes the county can deed it over to the Texas Panhandle War Memorial, which is in the process of raising money for its new interpretive center.
Houdashell, always the dealmaker, already has added an F-100 fighter jet to the War Memorial grounds, along with a Vietnam War-era UH-1 Huey helicopter, the kind of ship on which Houdashell served during the Vietnam War.
Yes, the downtown work is important to Amarillo and will bring tremendous value to the city over time when all the work is done. It’s not the only place, though, that’s undergoing a serious change.
I will look forward to watching the courthouse annex work progress — along with Randall County’s continuing evolution.