|By Karen Smith Welch, Amarillo
Globe-News, TexasMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Oct. 27, 2006 -- A consultant Thursday gave the Amarillo Downtown Development Committee, and an audience of more than 40, a taste of an action plan still to be finalized.
Fort Worth consultant James Toal listed components he believes crucial to creating a more energetic downtown -- though their priority in a five- to seven-year time line still is to be determined. On the list:
400 to 600 new housing units, both small condominium projects in existing structures and larger residential complexes;
One or two hotels providing 130 to 200 rooms to draw convention, business and other travelers;
400,000 to 600,000 square feet of new office/commercial space;
Six to 10 more restaurant and nightclub venues;
A "major presence" by a college or university;
A ballpark and affordable, family-friendly entertainment venues; and,
The hotel possibility likely could go to the front of the line, Toal said.
"I think the hotel's something we ought try to do next year," he said, referring to taking steps necessary to establish development incentives to entice investors. "That doesn't mean open the doors next year."
Public/private partnerships and incentive programs will be necessary to bring a hotel "of the caliber for attracting convention and visitor traffic" and other venues, he said.
Hotel chains have focused on the Interstate 40 corridor, but "I think that's just habit," Toal said. "You have to change the way they think, and the way you change the way they think is to have a public/private partnership to go after that hotel investor."
A subcommittee has accelerated its work on developing a proposal for funding tools for the Amarillo Downtown Development Committee and, ultimately, the Amarillo City Commission, to consider, subcommittee chair Glen Parkey said.
Toal said projects getting priority should be those at the city's core, because they should create living, working and play spaces within a "walkable range" of each other. The concentration of those improvements will create a "critical mass" of people occupying downtown Amarillo at all hours.
"We're going to have to set priorities, and not everything that we want to happen is going to happen in a short time," he said.
Toal will focus on the specific proposals that will make up his Amarillo downtown action plan over the next couple of months, he said.
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