Getting downtown back in full business stride

On the downtown Gilroy front there is good news from the
trenches. First, the city staff is poised to recommend for the City
Council’s approval a new policy on unreinforced masonry buildings
with the focus being on public safety, not the ability of the
structure to survive a 9.0 earthquake.
On the downtown Gilroy front there is good news from the trenches.

First, the city staff is poised to recommend for the City Council’s approval a new policy on unreinforced masonry buildings with the focus being on public safety, not the ability of the structure to survive a 9.0 earthquake.

Since that’s the only way the 20 or so URM buildings downtown (short of a miracle that is) are going to be occupied, it’s a welcome shift away from the city’s current stringent position. URM buildings are a vexing problem and the city has struggled to find a solution. The new rules should pave the way for a reinvestment for downtown property owners. It’s a good start.

The second leg on the revitalization tool is financing. Mayor Al Pinheiro has started the wheels turning by getting together all the banks and talking about how to fund loans for quake retrofitting in the URM buildings.

That’s an important first step that needs the mayor’s bulldogging all the way to completion – meaning that there’s a proactive system in place to inform and assist property owners with regards to financing.

The third leg of the stool should be filled in by City Hall. What creative ways are there to support this process beyond revising the ill-advised URM policy? Is block grant money available? Could loans be guaranteed by the city? Are federal or state grants available for URM re-construction? Could fee waivers be extended?

The economic meltdown has made it tougher than ever on downtown revitalization. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. The former Garlic Festival building which went bust and was sold is rented up, so are a few other office/apartment buildings. It’s not going to be easy, but if the focus stays on downtown as an important component to the future of our city it will get done.

Gilroy just needs to keep up the good work.

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