Amarillo Downtown Redevelopment In Jeopardy
The often discussed, occasionally promoted, and divisive plan to redevelop Amarillo's downtown area is now in doubt.
The recent city elections and specifically seats on the city council were contested in large part over the issue of downtown redevelopment. The ramifications of that election are being felt today by anyone involved with the multifaceted plan to revitalize and modernize downtown.
Tuesday evening the council voted 3-2 to put the Multi-Purpose Event Venue, or MPEV(usually pronounced m-pev) on the November ballot allowing voters to decided if the MPEV is necessary or not. The two dissenters were Mayor Paul Harpole and Councilman Brian Eades.
The meeting was contentious on both sides and many members of the public were heard both in support and against the MPEV. The Amarillo Local Government Corporation has suspended all plans for the MPEV until the city council advises them otherwise.
If the MPEV is voted down by voters it could cause a domino effect that effectively ends current plans for downtown redevelopment.
The well attended council meeting was also to include a discussion on whether to proceed with the palatial downtown convention hotel and a parking garage. Previous councils passed resolutions for those projects in 2011 and 2014. A vote last night on those issues was tabled at the behest of council member Randy Burkett, who asked for one additional week to review the plans before calling a vote on resolutions regarding those projects. The hotel and parking garage will be on the next meeting's agenda.
The hotel was scheduled to begin construction in September but the company has yet to get approval for the financing the construction and last night's meeting effectively puts a further hold on construction of the hotel until the council resolves the updated resolution for the parking garage and hotel.
At this point the November ballot will include a vote to approve or deny building of the MPEV. Mayor Harpole and Councilman Eades tried to push the vote into the May 2016 elections but did not receive support to pass that resolution.
Bill Gilliland and Laura Street addressed the council and claimed they have raised $2 million in private funds to support the MPEV in the past four days. The money is only to be used for the MPEV. The two believe the general public has misconceptions about the MPEV and how it will be utilized. The two urged the council to push a public vote on the MPEV back to allow better education of the public concerning exactly what the MPEV is for and how it will benefit the community.
Now the entire downtown redevelopment plan and almost 10 years of preparation is in jeopardy. Had the Amarillo Downtown Redevelopment Corporation been more open over the last several years instead of proceeding ahead with little public education or input perhaps those objecting to the plan would have been placated and support it.
Now the issue will be sent to voters in a city that traditionally has low voter turnout. Instead of the five members of the city council deciding the issue it will be the fraction of registered voters who bother to show up at the polls which could either open the door wide for the current downtown redevelopment plan or slam it tightly shut. Losing the MPEV would most likely mean the end of the new hotel and the parking garage.
Citizens should brace themselves for a media blitz in the coming months from both sides of the issue. If you are a registered voter, this election commands you study the issue and learn the facts while ignoring the hype on whether to support or deny the MPEV.