ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Big changes are coming to Abilene’s SoDA District, beginning with the opening of a new, highly anticipated restaurant, as well as the relocation of a popular coffee shop.

Tim Smith saw potential in the crumbling warehouse off Oak Street six years ago. The roof may have been collapsing, but he said he just knew it had potential. While he didn’t realize how fast business would boom surrounding the building that was his home, now the SoDA District Courtyard and Moose Mountain Coffee building, he said it has become his goal to see it grow further.

“I’ve made it my life for the past six years, unexpectedly,” Smith said. “It’s been fun, it’s been challenging, and sometimes it’s been two steps forward, one step back.”

Now considered one of the hubs in Abilene, the South of Downtown Abilene, or SODA District, has been a hotspot for recent growth. From entertainment to coffee, and the recent growth in downtown residences, it has just about everything an Abilene resident, visitor or anyone in between could ask for.

Smith announced on the Support Small Businesses of Abilene Facebook page on Sunday that some major changes would be coming to the ever-growing area.

“You’re going to see some more residential coming,” Smith said. “We have another person who owns a very successful restaurant out of town looking at the area, looking to move a branch here.”

The potential for more townhouses are coming, along with the emergence of temporary stays should provide plenty more lodging as the downtown area of Abilene continues to grow.

Two other major changes are the relocation of Moose Mountain Coffee to South 14th Street at the former location of Stillwater BBQ. Smith said in his post, “Though we will miss them being at 817 South 2nd, they needed a drive through in order to grow their business. We wish them much success in their new location!”

The other major change is the highly anticipated grand opening of the Matera Bar and Grill, which is set to open with a limited menu on Friday, May 5. An official ribbon cutting will be held at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, with guests being seated an hour earlier.

Matera Bar and Grill owner, Lindsay Flores said bringing her restaurant to the SoDA District was a no-brainer, citing past relationships with other business owners and the recent growth as two of the strongest reasons to come.

“The most important thing is the synergy we’re going to bring,” Flores said. “Small businesses working together is a beautiful thing and it’s something we get to be a part of here, and we love that.” 

Flores said she believes the new restaurant will not only help complete the SoDA District, but also help draw new businesses in.

“We really do want to be the hub of the SoDA District, and we want to involve and incorporate other small businesses as much as we can,” Flores said.

However great getting new restaurants, businesses, and entertainment is, one of Smith and Flores’ goals was to maintain the historical aspects of the area. One way they’re doing that is by bringing in local artist, David Reynaud to help incorporate Abilene’s history into the Matera Gardens.

“The light source from both of these walls comes from downtown,” Reynaud said. “I wanted to show that we’ve started in downtown, and we’re starting to grow our businesses and our culture further out, almost like a beacon.”

Reynaud plans to incorporate roses, cacti, guitars, and lyrics to a Marty Robbins’ hit, “Abilene Rose” to create the perfect blend of new and old on the original brick leading down to the venue.

Another major project in the works, just down the street from the SoDA District, is the revitalization of the original Abilene courthouse.