Restaurants are not what we need in the Old City Hall

The saga of a revitalized downtown Gilroy continues, with the
most recent announcement (Dispatch March 14) that a new Mexican
restaurant will soon (possibly June) occupy the Old City Hall
building on Sixth and Monterey streets.
The saga of a revitalized downtown Gilroy continues, with the most recent announcement (Dispatch March 14) that a new Mexican restaurant will soon (possibly June) occupy the Old City Hall building on Sixth and Monterey streets.

But like some mutation from an experiment gone bad, this restaurant will apparently be designed on a “jungle theme” according to the article, that will include “parrots and mangroves” and maybe even monkeys swinging from the trees, to really let patrons feel like they’re in a world away from Gilroy.

So while it appears that Gilroy might be getting it’s own version of Disneyland’s Tiki-Tiki room, that’s hardly what it needs to embody the mayor ‘s vision of a downtown Gilroy that is thematic of its historic past.

At least Gilroy’s Administrative Service Director Michael Dorn put out a sane caveat on this proposed venture by indicating any remodeling work must be in character with the historic nature of the building.

That makes good sense. But interior design of the building aside, needless to say, I was disappointed to hear that another restaurant might be occupying this wonderful downtown historic building.

If I’m not wrong, this will be the fourth restaurant attempting to make a go of it in the building since 1998, and it raises the question why this proposed venture won’t fail like the others have failed.

The Dispatch article indicated that this new restaurant will likely be run by a family with a history of success in the restaurant business, but it will remain to be proven that the restaurant “curse” that appears to be present in the building won’t strike again on the new tenant.

While the prospective new occupant said that his restaurant won’t fail because it will offer a “fun atmosphere and low prices” the downside to consider is will such a fun, low-priced restaurant in downtown put the three or four small “mom and pop-run” Mexican restaurants now in downtown out of business?

Will these small businesses be expendable because they’ll be priced out of being price competitive? Time will tell.

For the building itself, adequate parking will continue to be a big issue for a restaurant, because most people don’t like to hike for blocks to eat, unless it’s in downtown Palo Alto of course, and downtown Gilroy is no downtown Palo Alto.

Prospects of parking east of the railroad tracks don’t seem very attractive, given the nature of the neighborhood, meaning that most parking will have to be in downtown, or along Eigleberry street.

I’m still persuaded that city council is taking a wrong approach to utilizing this building most effectively, and especially for the city to benefit from the public relations image the building holds.

On Feb. 8, I wrote about an idea proposed by one local resident who told me “the Old City Hall Building is the best old business building in the downtown area.

Why doesn’t the city use it to their benefit and turn it into what it was, and make a museum out of it, with the old fire house with a (fire) truck and some beds and clothes, jail, etc. and gift shop?”

So I would again ask the city counsel to apply an “out of the box” thinking mentality and study the viability of turning the Old City Hall Building into a new “Gilroy Visitor’s Center” that would house a visitor’s information center, the Gilroy museum (move it from it’s current hidden-away location), the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Corporation, and even a private gift shop if space allows, that would highlight Gilroy’s garlic heritage.

By placing all of these separate entities into a “one stop” location in downtown, the city just might finally have a winning combination for this great old historic building–one that, this time, won’t fail.

And besides being a good public relations venture for the city, it just might be a “gemstone” between the two “bookends” that the mayor has been talking about for downtown, to the north, a revitalized and rebuilt Cannery retail/housing project, to the south, a new Gilroy Community Center.

With these new buildings coming, maybe a new name should also be considered.

Maybe it’s time to shed “downtown” and consider something like “Gilroy Village”, especially as new buildings containing residential housing are added.

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