Keep Up the Momentum

With its fee-waiver incentive program, the Gilroy City Council
has sparked a lot of good work downtown during the last two
years.
With its fee-waiver incentive program, the Gilroy City Council has sparked a lot of good work downtown during the last two years.

So much renovation has taken place – from large-scale remodeling to new buildings to replaced facades – it’s hard to keep track. And now the streetscape plan to beautify the core downtown area will kick into high gear.

The street construction presents a short-term challenge to existing businesses and building owners, but the Council’s recent extension of the fee-waiver incentive program presents a long-term opportunity for property owners, businesses and this community.

Local contractor David Sheedy, who is a partner in the new mixed housing-commercial project on the corner of Lewis and Monterey streets and who took advantage of the fee-waiver program, put the policy extension decision in perfect perspective: “It’s an excellent idea to keep the momentum going in the downtown. The risk of investing downtown was pretty high if you had to pay the complete fee waivers. This softened the impact on the owners so they could try and improve their properties.”

Clearly, momentum is key. As plans arise a buzz is created, and developers begin to focus on the vision of a new downtown. The city’s return on investment has been well worth the gamble so far.

After years of neglect and the damage of favoritism for commercial development elsewhere, downtown Gilroy actually shows promise.

Mayor Al Pinheiro, delivering on campaign promise, has led this charge, and he has been flanked by the Downtown Task Force and fellow councilmen. It’s been a wild success.

The projects in varying stages of completion give us a preview of the vibrant, lively, safe downtown many of us hope for. Some projects, like the clinic under construction and the cannery mixed-use renovation, will bring people downtown. The restaurants and variety of shops give people a reason to be there. Finally, the retrofitting of unreinforced masonry and the new streetscape will make downtown a safe and attractive place to be.

The east side of the freeway may be the heart that pumps economic blood through our town, but our downtown can be the soul of Gilroy. Downtown is walkable and more relaxing. That allows for meeting and greeting. Downtown welcomes gatherings, small ones like the coffee corner outside Sue’s and large ones like our community Christmas tree lighting. Downtown offers us unique, homespun, localized shopping and eating, once a year at the Pasta Fest or collectibles fair, or year-round, at Harvest Time or Porcella’s.

There are still issues downtown. Parking is foremost and the Council should make sure that a business permit and the number of parking spaces for employees are properly scrutinized and matched before a license is issued. Also, there’s still the issue of dangerous unreinforced masonry, so in the interest of safety due pressure, as well as incentives, should be applied to get that work completed.

It’s been a good two years, and as Thanksgiving approaches let’s be grateful for all those who have worked on turning our city’s core into a vibrant center.

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