Efforts to save downtown have persisted with dubious results ever since the days downtown didn't need saving.
The coming of Interstate 30 was the first perpetuating factor. Central Mall opening was the second. After that, the retail exodus was slow and steady until the 1980s, when the evacuation was in full swing.
In the years that followed, many a pep rally was held, many an impassioned pitch made, to reclaim this territory as our own. There was some bubbling up of optimism. This was usually displaced by pessimism, or maybe realism, or simply lack of money.
For all the grand plans, results were usually tepid. Some fine reclamation efforts of individual properties were heralded: A children's park, a pocket park, a theater, some fine restaurants that are still draws. But a cohesiveness to tie it all together was and continues to be lacking.
There is hope the restoration and repurposing of the Grim Hotel will make a visible impact. Primarily because of its location, it has been a blemish on downtown for more than 25 years. If it weren't so central, it wouldn't matter so much. But it does.
When the old Buhrman Pharr Hardware store was turned into loft apartments about 13 years ago, there were expectations this would help the downtown profile, put some soles on the sidewalk, drive the reestablishment of some retail. It didn't, largely because its Laurel Street location was too far from the city's heart.
The reclaiming of the Grim will be different because, at a minimum, anything would be better than what we have now.
But while our attention has been focused on its promised resurrection these past few months, we took another body blow. Not fatal by any means, but it hurt.
It mid-August, the Regency House, a storied structure on Broad Street — Texarkana's version of Main Street — went down with a deep groan and a cloud of dust as its roof caved in on itself. People up and down the block came running to see what the fuss was. The fuss was that another piece of potential would go unrealized.
Now half of Broad Street is blocked off because of the danger it represents. The only thing left to do is tear it down.
Why, you might ask, should we mourn this old building? It's not like we have a dearth of old buildings downtown.
True. But this one had been tagged as having potential. This one was worth keeping.
What made it special?
Though the building has been vacant for more than 15 years, the property's history dates back to 1878. It played a big role in Texarkana's history and in its glory years was the home of Dillard's department store, a strong brand that exists to this day. While decay had taken a toll, it still had good bones.
It was one of two downtown properties identified early in this millennium as being worthy of our attention. The Kress Building was the other.
Both are gone now. The Kress space is now parking and painting. It is hard to imagine the Regency space doing any better.
Because when there was still time, those who could didn't act with any sense of urgency.
The wait proved fatal.
So we will move on, because that is all we can do. There is nothing to push back on but the rubble.
This amazing puzzle that is downtown is perplexing. Something goes up and something comes down. That may seem like balance; it may seem like a wash; but status quo is still a loss.
When will the churn stop and true progress begin?