City Will Spend $100K Downtown

Money will be used to help merchants during construction
Gilroy – City leaders will spend an extra $100,000 to finance short-term parking and other improvements they have promised downtown business owners concerned about upcoming development.

Officials plan to use a third of the funds, approved Oct. 3 by the City Council, for an advertising campaign aimed at keeping businesses from hemorrhaging customers next year, when the city shuts down two blocks of Monterey Street to rip up and replace the sidewalks and road. The streetscape project will force the closure of the historic main drag between Fourth and Sixth streets for 10 months, beginning in January.

“The thing about it is, it’s important – even if it takes a few extra dollars to do it,” Councilman Bob Dillon said of the decision to allocate more funds. “I’m not going to do anything to slow the refurbishing of downtown.”

City Transportation Engineer Don Dey said the additional funding for the $3-million project grew from meetings with downtown business owners, who expressed concern about the lack of safe, short-term parking during the construction period.

In part, the extra funds will help add lighting to a new strip of parking slated for the alley east of Monterey Street, and for signs and other indicators directing traffic to new parking areas.

The signs will direct downtown shoppers, for instance, to a 27-space parking lot at the corner of Fourth and Eigleberry streets, which local developer Gary Walton is allowing the city to use until he starts renovating the site next year.

“If nothing else, at least it will be available through the winter months,” Walton said, adding that the time frame could stretch out depending on the speed of the permitting process.

He also predicted that the future tenant of another one of his properties, at the corner of Fourth and Monterey streets, would allow long-term use on nights and weekends of 20 spots.

But at least one downtown business owner unhappy with the city’s rush to rebuild the area found cause for concern in the city’s temporary parking solutions. Steve Ashford, owner of an antique store between Fourth and Fifth streets along Monterey, called it “a waste of money” for the city to repave and stripe Walton’s lot when the developer planned to start construction on the site in the midst of the streetscape project.

Dey could not say how much the city is spending on the repaving, but expressed hope “that we’ve got that lot for the whole time frame of the (streetscape) project.”

The city’s long-term parking plans for the area center on a lot off Eigleberry Street, directly behind the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, as well as the addition of parking as part of a 200-unit housing project at the Cannery, off Lewis Street. In the distant future, officials plan to build a downtown parking garage in the area behind the chamber of commerce.

The city will pay for the streetscape project largely with a $2.5 million grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The additional $100,000 council approved at the beginning of October brings the city’s share of the project to $633,524.

In addition to parking, the additional funding includes $43,000 for a downtown arts and activity center and $10,000 to repair street lights. The city offset $57,000 of increased costs by switching the design of future sidewalks.

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