Should Visitor’s Bureau move to Old City Hall?

GILROY
– Imagine eager tourists strolling downtown and flowing into
Gilroy’s most historic building, filling their brains with local
history from the Gilroy Visitor’s Bureau and then stuffing their
stomachs with local cuisine.
Now imagine that all in one building
– Old City Hall.
GILROY – Imagine eager tourists strolling downtown and flowing into Gilroy’s most historic building, filling their brains with local history from the Gilroy Visitor’s Bureau and then stuffing their stomachs with local cuisine.

Now imagine that all in one building – Old City Hall.

“The council has no position now (on how to fill Old City Hall), but, personally, I would like to see the Visitor’s Bureau and the GDDC (Downtown Association/Gilroy Downtown Development Corporation) move in,” Mayor Tom Springer said. “I would also like to keep a restaurant active, hopefully the Wild Rose. This building can be a cornerstone to the downtown we all want.”

Springer’s vision for Old City Hall is just one of the scenarios City Council will review at its Jan. 13 study session on the future of the prominent building on the corner of Monterey Road and Sixth Street.

Gavilan College’s lease with the city for the building expired Nov. 1, although the city has agreed to let the school’s community education department operate out of the building until the end of the semester on Dec. 20.

In conjunction with Gavilan’s community education department, several U.S. Department of Housing Urban Development “incubator businesses,” such as the Wild Rose House of Taste restaurant, the Gallery of Flowers floral shop and a tamale business using the Wild Rose’s kitchen, also are operating out of Old City Hall.

“We have talked to Gavilan, we have talked to the Visitor’s Bureau, and we have been contacted by some private parties interested (in leasing Old City Hall),” said Mike Dorn, director of city administrative services about future tenants of Old City Hall. “Right now, it is wide open – everything is just informal conversation.”

Many people in the community see the historically rich Old City Hall as an ideal anchor to a future downtown business improvement district, and Gavilan has hired a private consultant to propose the building continue being used by a nonprofit organization with an emphasis on small, independently owned businesses. The study is scheduled to be complete by mid-December, and staff reports will be provided to council members prior to its Jan. 13 study session, Dorn said.

The City of Gilroy had leased the building to Gavilan for $3,000 a month, but since the lease has ended Gavilan has agreed to pay only for utilities, upkeep and security.

Gavilan had been paying the rent with the help of a $400,000 grant from HUD to provided to help fund the incubator businesses in the building.

“This building is a natural magnet for downtown,” Springer said. “Lets use it to elevate the whole area.”

Springer’s idea of placing the Visitor’s Bureau in the building would mean only a short move from its current location on the corner of Monterey Road and I.O.O.F.

The Visitor’s Bureau currently enjoys a “partner” status with the city and receives $168,000 annually from the Gilroy General Fund. As a partner of the city, the organization is required to help maintain its building owned by the city and participate in several functions throughout the year.

The Downtown Association, or GDDC, currently does not have an office, but if it could gain “partner” status and a yearly stipend from the city, Old City Hall would be the most logical place for the association to set up shop, Springer said.

“We have talked a little about moving over there (Old City Hall), but we are just one option right now,” said Kirsten Carr, director of the Gilroy Visitor’s Bureau. “It would be a great location, but we also like our current building. … The board will discuss it at our next meeting in December and go from there.”

Old City Hall has played home to several restaurants, theaters and even a combination dinner theater during the past decade since it was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Following the quake, the city received a $1.5 million federal grant to repair the building structure and its large clock.

“Whatever goes in there can serve as a way to get people downtown,” said David Peoples, director of the Downtown Association. “People recognize and like that building; it is one of the most historic buildings in downtown. It should be used in the purpose the city thinks can best benefit all of us.”

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