MATHIS, Texas — Block by block, downtown Mathis is set to receive a makeover.

For decades, a once-thriving downtown is now the scene of empty and dilapidated buildings. The City and Economic Development Group want that to change.

"It's been a community effort to try and get things going," City Manager Michael Barrera said. 

For the past 10 years, most of the empty buildings have been tied up in a family trust. Barrera said the space was owned by a Mathis couple. When they passed away, they left the property in their children's possession. This meant City officials had to track down the owners and ask them to release the land for improvement.

While it took time and patience, Barrera said they are on the right track to making downtown Mathis beautiful, again.

"All the activity that's going on now, that's very rewarding," Barrera said.

A $350,000 grant allowed the City to improve sidewalks, curbs and landscaping. Recently, Barrera said they applied for over $1 million in state and federal grants to improve the area.

Slowly but surely, new and locally owned businesses have opened up in the downtown area. Barrera said when they aquired the property, they were able to auction most of it and put the rest up for sale.

However, the mission could not have been executed without the relationship between the City and Mathis's Economic Development.

Executive Director Doug Dowler said with Lake Corpus Christi nearby, they need businesses for tourists to go to.

"That's important to us in our commerce, to our vendors and businesses here in town," Dowler said.

New businesses have been opening up in downtown Mathis such as a new gym and pizzeria. Kali Calderon, co-owner of Rusty Goods, said this is exciting for her small town.

"It's awesome because Mathis really needs this," Calderon said.

Calderon and her business partner opened their doors two years ago. Both of the women have three children, yet they've managed to thrive and they hope other people choose to do the same.

"All these building could be really awesome, you know. There's a lot of potential here, it's just a matter of people coming in and wanting to do it for Mathis," Calderon said.

With the rise in new businesses, Dowler and Barrera have high hopes for the future of Mathis. With a new subdivision being built and a potential brewery, they said the City is on the right track to become a tourist destination.

"We've got the momentum built now and I think in the next three to five years there will be a big difference on how downtown looks," Barrera said.

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