Citizens ponder future of Old City Hall

GILROY
– Making Old City Hall a focal point for art and cultural
activities in Gilroy emerged as the consensus community desire
during a session held last week to determine the historical
landmark’s future use.
GILROY – Making Old City Hall a focal point for art and cultural activities in Gilroy emerged as the consensus community desire during a session held last week to determine the historical landmark’s future use.

About 18 to 20 people from the Gavilan College and Gilroy community espoused that wish at a focus group held last Monday at Old City Hall by AMH Consultants of San Jose. The session was part of the firm’s effort to make a formal recommendation to City Council in December regarding how the 1905 Baroque- and Mission Revival-style building should be used and operated.

Determining a future use for the site is imperative now that a $400,000 grant, given to Gavilan College in March 2000 to spur small business, has run out. Money provided by the grant pays rent on the building which is then sub let at reduced rates to small and fledgling businesses.

The grant helped launch The Wild Rose House of Taste restaurant, Gallery of Flowers floral shop and a tamale business.

“It was a pretty good turnout. The consensus was that the building is an historical landmark and a focal point for the city and that Gilroy should do everything to keep that emphasis,” said lead consultant Ernest Guzman.

Guzman said participants expressed an interest in seeing the restaurant and the site’s ballroom used for catered receptions after, for instance, art show and play openings. He said using the space for computer classes and office space was also favorable to participants.

Gavilan Spokesperson Jan Bernstein Chargin said that at least the restaurant would remain once the college, which has used the space for offices and some classes, moves out. One idea, Chargin said, is to form a new nonprofit that could potentially use other grants and donations to launch more small businesses.

Another focus group session will be held Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 6 to 7 p.m. at Old City Hall. Guzman said it is open to the public, but will be held specifically to garner opinions from downtown Gilroy business people.

Gilroy Downtown Development Corporation President Dave Peoples is organizing the Wednesday session. He said a good turnout – 20 to 25 people – will make the meeting a success, and is hoping the session generates input that will be considered as the city pushes forward with plans to revitalize the remainder of downtown.

“A lot of people have their own ideas for what the site should be used for,” Peoples said, “but the ideas just seem to have languished for a number of years.

“The session Wednesday night will be the appropriate place to discuss ideas,” Peoples continued.

Focus group participants are being asked to consider four things:

• What is your vision for City Hall?

• What is the image you want to create in the community for Old City Hall?

• What do you see as the function of the space there?

• What possibilities and opportunities do you see for Old City Hall?

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