Tag Archives: downtown Canyon

Old courthouse turns into a business magnet

Time for a mea culpa.

I was an adamant foe of an effort to spend public money to revive a long-abandoned county courthouse in Randall County. I voted against a referendum that called for such an expenditure.

It turned out that I was among the minority of voters. Most of them who voted in Randall County approved the expenditure of public funds to refurbish the exterior of the courthouse building that was erected in1909. The county abandoned it some years ago, relocating many functions on the other side of Canyon, Texas.

The county finished the outside of the building. The inside remains empty. It hasn’t been touched.

One of the initial foes of that public expenditure was Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell. The judge is one of my better friends in public life. I admire the lifelong Republican politician greatly. I thought he was correct to oppose spending public funds on the courthouse building.

He has turned the corner. Why? Because the Canyon Square has sprung back to life. Various businesses have filled virtually all the empty storefronts on the square. Downtown Canyon is brimming with life. Houdashell credits the old courthouse structure as being the magnet that has drawn the businesses downtown.

The City of Canyon looked for a time at moving into the courthouse building, but then backed out when it determined it couldn’t rehabilitate the building in a cost-effective manner for municipal purposes.

I don’t have the vaguest notion where the county is going with the structure. It still owns the building. It won’t reinstall any county government functions in the 109-year-old building. Its Justice Center is functioning across the street from West Texas A&M University; the old finance building serves as the headquarters for the commissioners court across the street from the old courthouse.

However, the 1909 courthouse building looks spiffy and well-groomed in the middle of the square. The storefronts surrounding the building are busy.

Judge Houdashell, once a staunch critic of the old structure, now is one of its biggest fans. I, too, am a believer in what has happened.

Life is good in downtown Canyon. Who knew?

Eight years on, it’s still pretty — and still empty

Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell can claim many successes during his years presiding over the county’s Commissioners Court.

For instance, the sheriff’s department has built a complex on South Georgia Street; the county just recently opened its new courthouse annex on Western Street in southwest Amarillo.

Oh, and the county was able to spruce up the 1909 Courthouse building on the Square in Canyon.

I found a High Plains Blogger post from March 2009 that commented on the old courthouse. I noted that the outside looks good. The inside, well, is unusable. It was then. It still is today.

Pretty on the outside

Let me be crystal clear: I am glad that the county was able to renovate the exterior of that courthouse. It was able to secure a state grant, and then spent local tax funds — with voters’ approval — to finish the job.

The county vacated the courthouse years ago. It moved some functions across the street into the old jail building. The Justice Center was opened a few blocks away across the street from West Texas A&M University.

The old building? It’s empty. Its interior is a mess.

I wrote a feature story for NewsChannel10.com years after leaving the Amarillo Globe-News about a possible new tenant for the 1909 Courthouse: The City of Canyon considered moving in, according to City Manager Randy Criswell. Then the city backed off when the cost estimates proved prohibitive.

The Square has blossomed since the exterior renovation. Judge Houdashell is proud of what has happened to the Square: Businesses have sprouted up along once-empty storefronts. It’s active, vibrant, busy in downtown Canyon.

Houdashell credits the 1909 Courthouse for luring that activity.

That’s fantastic! Houdashell’s pride is justified. However, there must be a move afoot to complete this mosaic.

I haven’t asked my friend, Judge Houdashell, what he has in mind for landing a new tenant for the structure. My strong hunch is that with the Courthouse Annex project complete, he is likely to turn his significant deal-making skill to finding an organization interested in fixing up a grand-looking old building.

My sense is that the success already brought to Canyon by a renovated exterior will explode even more once they find someone who fix up and occupy its interior.