As thrilled as I am to watch downtown Amarillo, Texas, redevelop and revive its downtown business district, I remain perplexed about the apparent (lack of) future of a one-time iconic structure at the northern edge of that revival.
Yes, I refer to the Herring Hotel.
The Herring Hotel once was the go-to location in Amarillo. It was the center of the city’s high society, its old-money establishment. It was the place to see and to be seen.
If you needed a venue for a high-dollar party, you went to the Herring Hotel. If you wanted to show out-of-town guests the finest the city had to offer, you took ’em to the Herring Hotel.
Those glory days are long gone. It’s been vacant for decades. It has been allowed to rot and fester. It is in decay.
However, to my untrained eye, the Herring Hotel is not beyond the point of salvation. I mean, if an investor can be found to sink millions of bucks into the rebirth of the Barfield Building — a structure I long was in far worse shape than the Herring — then what in the world is keeping such investment away from the massive Herring Hotel?
The owner of the Herring property, Bob Goodrich, once took me on a tour of the structure while I was working part-time as a freelance blogger for KFDA NewsChannel 10. We walked through the ground floor and to be candid, I was startled to see the relatively good condition of what used to be the hotel foyer.
Goodrich, a retired academician, bought the Herring for a song. He’s been paying the taxes on it for a number of years He also has been seeking someone — anyone — to take the hotel off his hands and find a new use for a building that Goodrich believes still has life left in it.
Goodrich reportedly has come close to making a major announcement regarding the Herring Hotel. There has been chatter about mixed-use redevelopment for the building: a combination of lodging, retail space, loft apartments. Then nothing happens.
The hotel sits in the midst of the city’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, an area that sets aside tax revenue increases within the zone and commits it to redevelopment of property and “public infrastructure.” It appears that the TIRZ board hasn’t seen much future for the Herring Hotel.
To be candid, this subtle rejection puzzles me.
I am wondering whether Amarillo can fill in a gigantic hole in its downtown redevelopment by luring a qualified investor who can find a credible use for a structure that once stood as a beacon along the High Plains.
My hope springs eternal.