AMARILLO -- Downtown revitalization's been a hot topic recently, but it's been in the works for twenty years, and not everyone's convinced it will really happen this time. In a recent poll at myhighplains.com, about 66% of those who took the poll said they've heard it all before and don't buy it.
"I can understand that," said Melissa Dailey, Executive Director of Downtown Amarillo Incorporated, a nonprofit that's one of three groups, including Center City Amarillo and the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ), working on revitalizing downtown. "I can understand that when things haven't moved forward as you've like them to over and over again."
Dailey came to Amarillo in 2009 after helping with the turnaround of downtown Fort Worth. She says although the cities may differ in size, the same principles of synergy apply in making downtown revitalization a reality.
"We have the support of much of the public, we have the support of the elected officials."
Dailey says politics, economics and lack of community support created problems in the past. Another slowdown, says Beth Duke, Executive Director of Center City, freeing up land around the Civic Center. One example: the Amarillo City Jail, which no longer houses inmates as of August.
"That process took about three years to get accomplished," says Duke. "It shows that you really have to have patience in downtown redevelopment."
Duke says downtown's momentum started with the strategic action plan the city adopted two years ago and developed with the help of Fort Worth-based consulting firm, Gideon Toll.
"All of the developers told us if you dont have a strategic action plan, then you cant expect this kind of development, so this was really a milestone to get this started."
The ideas for a convention hotel, multiuse facility, retail, housing, and more, were fleshed out in the three comprehensive master plans released in September. Dailey says the finished plan will likely be a combination of all three.
Dailey adds, "We got a lot of comments from the public about a preference for plan number one."
And now Dailey says the redevelopment effort also has what she calls a critical piece.
"We have identified a developer that can help us implement this."
She won't say who that is yet. Dailey says there isn't a definitive deadline for building the convention hotel, multi-use facility, and parking garage, but they're aiming for 2013 or 2014. Paul Harpole of TIRZ agrees.
"I would say in three to five years you're gonna see substantial things happen downtown."
Dailey says one of the biggest obstacles is still getting land around the Civic Center.
"The only property thats not public primarily is coca-cola and weve initiated discussions and have positive discussions."
Still, officials believe the tipping point in downtown's transformation has been reached.
"Now is the time for this to happen," says Harpole.
For more information on downtown revitalization, including the strategic and conceptual plans:
Downtown Amarillo Inc: http://www.downtownamarillo.com/
Center City: http://www.centercity.org/
To see KAMR's poll on the issue: http://tinyurl.com/2fmyq5e
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