Tag Archives: Embassy Suites Hotel

Step by step, downtown moving ahead

I am likely to get the sequence slightly mixed up, but I’m trying to assemble the series of positive steps that have been taken in downtown Amarillo.

— The city commissions a study to assemble a Strategic Action Plan

— It conducts a series of public hearings.

— The City Council approves the plan and then approves creation of agencies dedicated to crafting a strategies to bring the district back to life.

— Debate ensues and it¬†becomes quite, um, lively about the direction the city is taking.

— Three new council members join the governing body after a contentious municipal election campaign.

— The Local Government Corporation agrees to proceed with plans to build a multipurpose event venue, according to the wishes of voters who endorsed the concept in a citywide referendum.

— Construction begins on a convention hotel and a parking garage.

— Now comes the latest bit of good news, which was announced today at noon: plans for new restaurants that will go into the Woolworth Building on South Polk Street.

I’ve likely missed a few points along the way.

But I do sense continuing momentum in the effort to reshape, reconfigure, rehabilitate, revive and restore the city’s downtown business district.

Let’s face the blunt truth here. Downtown has been a moribund place for a good while. My own personal observation of the district, dating back to early 1995 when I first arrived in Amarillo, tells me that downtown is in far better shape than it was when my wife and I arrived here.

I get that there are many more hills to climb. The city must find a new council member to succeed Brian Eades, who’s planning to resign from the council this summer. That selection process has hit a few bumps along the way.

The city is negotiating with a baseball franchise to relocate its operation to Amarillo, where it will play ball at a planned baseball park to be built at the site of the now-vacant Coca-Cola distribution center.

But we’ve heard about convention business already being booked because of the convention hotel’s pending arrival on the scene. City and civic leaders have told us for years about all the convention business the city has lost because of a lack of appropriate nearby lodging for conventioneers.

Is all this activity connected? Is it related to the city’s efforts to resuscitate its downtown district?

It looks that way to me.

To be honest, I am puzzled by the chronic gripers who keep saying all this is somehow bad for Amarillo.

Seeing downtown Amarillo progress up close

downtown

I ventured into downtown Amarillo this morning and saw a fairly dramatic sight.

Construction is well underway on three major parcels of property.

I had noted in an earlier blog about the view of those parcels from atop the Chase Tower.

Here it is.

However, as I made my way to keep an appointment with Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas for a story I’m writing for KFDA NewsChannel 10, I was stunned to see how much¬†progress has occurred on those sites.

Traveling along Buchanan Street from south to north, I took note of these sites.

The Southwestern Public Service office complex that is now several stories high. The floors aren’t done. The crews have just framed them, but they’re now looming above the ground — with a huge construction crane towering over the project.

The parking garage lot has been leveled and is now full of building material.

The Embassy Suites convention hotel site perhaps was the most stunning of all. Crews have poured the concrete slab. The site is full of building materials. But rising from the ground is what looks like an elevator shaft, which means that the beginning of the building’s superstructure is beginning to take shape.

The multipurpose event venue site across the street hasn’t yet been disturbed, but its day is coming.

There’s a good news/bad news/better news sequence taking place.

The good news? The construction reveals a lot of vibrant activity downtown where there had been little for many years.

The bad news? Crews have had to close off east-west streets to keep traffic away from the construction work.

The better news? When it’s all done, downtown is going to look dramatically, spectacularly different — and better — than it does today.

I could not help but ponder as well this final thought.

Why in the world did the city feel the need to peel away economic development responsibilities from Downtown Amarillo Inc. — which has played a huge role in what’s transpiring downtown at this moment?

 

 

View from atop the tower is quite revealing

MPEV

Amarillo’s downtown district boasts a single structure that¬†you could call a “skyscraper.”

The Chase Tower looms 31 stories over the city and from that top floor one can get a breathtaking view of our spacious landscape.

When you look east from that tower, though, you don’t have to cast your gaze toward the horizon to see the sure sign of change that’s occurring.

Look down just a bit at the Civic Center, City Hall, at the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts and you see some serious work being done.

You’ll see two vacant lots that have been cleared out. Look a bit south of those two lots and you’ll notice a new structure rising up from the dirt; that would be the new Southwestern Public Service office complex.

The two lots? They’ll belong to the Embassy Suites convention hotel and a parking garage. Site preparation has begun on those two sites.

Oh, and just a bit farther east, right across the street from City Hall, you’ll see another parcel of property. At the moment it contains some vacated buildings once occupied by the Coca-Cola Distribution Center; the Coke¬†operation has moved to a business park and soon the buildings left behind will be razed to make room for “the ballpark.”

I have the privilege of looking at all that change each week when I attend the regular Rotary Club of Amarillo meetings at the Amarillo Club atop the Chase Tower.

I do enjoy seeing the change from week to week that’s occurring on the sites. The SPS building seems just a tiny bit closer to completion; the convention hotel site and the parking garage lot are getting prepped to a little greater degree.

To be candid, I remain a bit surprised that so much work has been done on these downtown improvement projects. After the tumult associated with this past spring’s municipal election that brought us three new City Council members who didn’t seem as dedicated to the project as their predecessors, I feared the worst. I feared that the work would come to a halt.

It hasn’t.

The multipurpose event venue appears to be inching toward its start; the downtown convention hotel and the parking garage are about to take some form.

Amarillo’s downtown business district is going to reap the benefit of the change that’s coming its way.

As the center of the city improves, you can take my word for it: So will the rest of Amarillo.

Yes, the view from the top floor of the Chase Tower looks mighty grand.

 

DAI getting support from AMM

downtownamarilloinc1

Downtown Amarillo Inc.’s future might be getting a bit murky.

Why? Well, that’s what a political organization comprising some young Amarillo residents wants to know.

Amarillo Millennial Movement has posted a video proclaiming the successes that have occurred in downtown Amarillo since the founding of DAI.

See the video here.

The Amarillo City Council is considering some major reconfiguration of downtown’s redevelopment strategy. DAI might not figure nearly as prominently in future economic redevelopment efforts.

The council might move some of the economic redevelopment efforts directly into City Hall, which would reduce significantly DAI’s role in future efforts.

AMM’s video cites a number of successful projects that have begun or been completed while DAI — a non-profit agency — has been on the job.

The Fisk Building revival? New lofts along 10th Avenue? Park development near the Potter County Courthouse? New commercial development? Street improvements? Ground being broken for the new Embassy Suites Hotel and for the new parking garage?

AMM wants DAI to stay on the job and is using social media to lobby the City Council to keep the agency as a viable economic development tool.

I happen to agree with AMM’s request.

I am acutely aware of the criticism that DAI has drawn from some quarters here and there in the city. But as I look at how downtown has progressed over the past few years, I keep wondering: Precisely why is this agency being singled out?

City Councilman Brian Eades remains a strong proponent for DAI. He said the other day that DAI “has been more responsible for the success we’ve had than any other entity.” He added that DAI comprises “experts at this and they’ve done a good job.”

So, why the rush to change what appears to be a successful formula for guiding the city toward a brighter future?

 

Ah, the chaos of construction in downtown Amarillo

amarillo

I have just returned from an appointment in downtown Amarillo.

It was in a building at Eighth Avenue and Buchanan Street. I couldn’t spot the building from the street, so I drove¬†an extra ¬†block to City Hall to¬†ask for¬†directions to the place (that’s right, I’m one of those few American males who actually asks for directions when I cannot find my destination).

They told me where it is located. I found the site. Good thing, too, because the construction all around it had me worried I’d miss my meeting time, as I was on a tight schedule.

So, what’s all the commotion about?

That Xcel Energy office complex is rising up out of the dirt across the street from where I was meeting my interview.

And … next to that construction site another one is taking shape. That’s going to be where the Embassy Suites convention hotel is going up.

OK, I get that few of us welcome the chaos associated with all this construction. However, as I’ve noted before, the end product — which I hope includes that ballpark on the east side of Buchanan — will contributed to a downtown district that will make all of us proud of our city.

I have griped as much as the next guy about construction delays. I try, though, to take the long view.

Patience will be required of us to await the finish.

It should be a thing of beauty.

Dear Council: Do not drag your feet

ama city council

Dear Mayor Paul Harpole and the rest of the Amarillo City Council:

This is an open letter to y’all. It serves as a piece of unsolicited advice in the wake of Tuesday’s big election … not that you aren’t going to be getting a lot of such advice from constituents.

The voters spoke their minds. Yes, it was close. In reality, though, it wasn’t a razor-thin margin that produced a victory for those — such as me — who favored the multipurpose event venue that includes a 4,500-seat ballpark.

I wish the turnout had been larger. With all the sound and fury preceding the balloting on Tuesday, I was hoping more folks would have bothered to vote. A 22,444-vote turnout isn’t all that great. But, hey, why quibble over that just yet?

The 4-percentage point margin isn’t so tiny. Presidents of the United States have been elected with far less of a margin than that.

My advice to you now is simple.

Ratify the results. Do it unanimously. We’ve heard some rumbling around Amarillo that one of you might want to hold out. I hope that’s not the case.

You’ve got a chance to discuss these results in the open, in front of the public. I encourage you to do so. Do not fabricate some bogus reason to do it behind closed doors.

Once you do ratify the results, then by all means keep discussing the developments relating to the MPEV in the open. You’ve all talked about transparency and its value to the democratic process. Here’s your chance to prove you’re all men of your word.

If there’s going to be any tinkering with the project, then be sure you do so under the glare of public scrutiny.

But the majority of those voted on the MPEV made another statement that’s more implied than explicit. They want action taken and they do not want you to dawdle over it.

Amarillo’s voters decided to go forward with this $32 million project and it is incumbent on you to do so in a timely fashion. We’ve had enough drama as it is. The time to rally behind a single purpose has arrived.

We’ve lost three senior city administrators just since the May election. You need to hire a city manager, who then needs to hire an assistant city manager and a city attorney. I truly wish you luck in trying to recruit a top-flight municipal administrator. Hire that person, lay down your policy — and then get the hell out of the way.

Amarillo’s voters have taken a big step toward the future with the affirmative vote on the MPEV. A downtown hotel is coming, too. At some point we’ll all need to talk about how to expand the Civic Center.

Gentlemen, the time has arrived for you get real busy.

Right now …