There used to be a time when I ventured into downtown Amarillo daily.
I worked there full time. I would see the same sights as I drove toward my place of employment. When you see the same things each day you don’t always notice changes while they’re occurring.
These days I get downtown far less frequently. It’s usually once per week to attend a Rotary Club meeting at the Chase Tower.
Those downtown sojourns, though, are producing a visual treat for me. I’m noticing the changes more readily. I cannot say I notice them week over week, but I do sense some serious changes — for the better — in our downtown district.
The most obvious change has been the sight of that construction crane over a major project going up on Buchanan Street. It’s the new Xcel Energy office complex. They’ve laid the foundation and have begun framing the multi-story structure. Xcel will move into the building in 2017.
OK, there’s more.
As I drive down Polk Street, I get the sense of more activity on what used to be the city’s “main drag.” It’s nothing I can define point by point. It’s just a feeling in my gut.
The last time I saw Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner, I told her how proud I am of the courthouse complex renovation. She’s clearly proud of it, too. And she should be.
The Commerce Building at Eighth and Tyler is going to be transformed into an urban branch campus for West Texas A&M University.
My anticipation is growing as well as I await the start of actual construction of the Embassy Suites hotel, where they’ve “broken ground.”
And, of course, we have this multipurpose event venue that’s now planned for construction at the site of the vacated Coca-Cola distribution complex across the street from City Hall.
I’ve long believed that any city’s future depends on the health of its downtown district. Show me a city with a dilapidated downtown and I’ll show you a city in serious decline. Believe me, I’ve seen my share as I’ve traveled through Texas over the past 31 years.
I’ve also seen cities with vibrant downtown districts that also reflect the health of their communities.
My hope for Amarillo is that the momentum I sense is increasing in its downtown district will continue and pick up speed.
That Xcel Energy construction crane is a huge start. I’m ready to see more of them.