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I thought I would start a thread for this part of the state as it's a location I've started visiting with my growing family more and more over the past few years.

Most of the time we are in town, it is for the annual CALF (Children's Art & Literacy Festival), which is an event that is 10 years old and takes place each June. It's seen steady growth from year to year and takes place in multiple venues in the fairly compact downtown area. It is this event, and the fact that the city is host to the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature (among other factors), that has allowed the community to lean into the identity of Abilene as the "Storybook Capital of America".

Prior to this, I'd never have thought of a community like Abilene as one that would have such an moniker, but it is distinct.

There has also been a noticeable redevelopment of existing spaces in the heart of the city. More restaurant and bar options than before, both north and south of 1st Street. Even this community has fallen victim to the desire to apply a "hip" abbreviation to a neighborhood; the latter area specifically - as that area is referred to as SoDA (South of Downtown Abilene). The latter also will likely see an increase in business in upcoming years, aside from the natural development, as the long-unused 1914 courthouse is being renovated and will help alleviate the close quarters in several nearby buildings. A few blocks east, there is talk of developing a minor league baseball stadium and several retail/office buildings.

Perhaps the most interesting development has been north of 1st, in the heart of the traditional downtown area. In addition to the repurposed spaces, there are active plans to develop a "Festival District" directly south of the Convention Center. The first component, a Doubletree Hotel is nearly finished and should be open a week before the next CALF gets underway. When it opens it will be the ONLY hotel in the downtown area. This construction would tie into improvements that have been made around the grounds of the Convention Center that now include a Storybook Garden - a collection of sculptures of storybook characters created by local sculptors to honor the individual illustrators who are chosen to be celebrated each year at the Festival. Additional buildings and landscaping would be built on the block immediately east of the hotel to serve retailers and restaurants.

As a result of the development on the adjacent blocks the former sole lodging in the area, the nearby Civic Plaza Hotel, was demolished in 2020. The hotel had experienced increased issues with criminality in the years prior to its destruction. The local boosters that bought it and demolished it want to try and draw additional retail to the block and tie it into the Festival District and the like but those plans haven't solidified just yet.

I think the reason this place has made such an impact on me is because I recall visiting in the summer of 1998 or 1999 and the same downtown area was absolutely devoid of life after 6 PM. I think there may have been a big concert going on at the same time at the Expo Center at the time, but it just weirded me out. It seemed so abandoned and quiet. Regardless of any major events it felt like the same vibe would've been there regardless. That is not the case today. Hopefully the positive momentum will continue. 

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  • 8 months later...



"The hotel boasts 200 rooms, a smokehouse restaurant, a cocktail lounge, an outdoor second-floor pool, a fitness center, in-room dining, dry cleaning, and more than 23,000 square feet of meeting space.

Kukreja said the intent for the hotel is to complement the existing Convention Center and offer amenities and services to guests and events that choose to come to Abilene."

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  • 2 months later...


"Abilene Christian University (ACU) celebrated the grand opening on Sept. 1, 2023, of its Dillard Science and Engineering Research Center (SERC), which will house a research molten salt nuclear reactor, currently being designed. The facility will allow graduate and undergraduate students to contribute to "world-class research and groundbreaking technology," the university said."


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