Fundraising to fuel re-opening

Grammy award-winning songwriter Don Henry will headline a Jan. 15 benefit concert to help raise funds for the planned re-opening of the historic Granada Theater in downtown Morgan Hill, according to Vice Chair Renee Carrillo of the Morgan Hill Granada Preservation Society.
Henry, who penned such hits as the country classic “Where’ve You Been” and the biker lullaby “Harley,” will be joined onstage at the Granada by fellow musicians Craig Carothers and Steve Seskin, all from Tennessee. Tickets, priced as a $30 donation, can be purchased at the Grinds, Vines and Automobilia Cafe located at 17400 Monterey Road.
“(Henry) went to school at St. Catherine’s, and now he wants to give back to his community, which says so much for him to come back to this little place,” said Carrillo, owner of the GVA cafe. “It’s just pretty amazing.”
Carrillo said organizers rented a stage and lighting for the inside event, which is the third fundraiser dedicated to the re-opening of the Granada Theater since the MHGPS purchased the lease Dec. 1.
The preservation society has not yet pinned down a grand re-opening date for the theater.
“Everybody I’ve talked to is excited about (re-opening the theater),” said Carrillo, whose group has raised a modest $500 through the first two fundraisers, a “Pictures with Santa” event and a Dec. 21 benefit dinner at the GVA Cafe. “It’s such a great staple in our community. Personally, I think it will help revamp downtown Morgan Hill.”
The society’s long-term plan is to eventually purchase the Granada from the city, for which they need about $1.6 million, according to MHGPS Chair John Liegl.
The MHGPS’ initial plan – until they can buy the theater – is to keep the venue split into two auditoriums, as it is currently configured. One side would be devoted to movie screenings (ideally classic, foreign and children’s films), and on the other side, the MHGPS plans to build a small stage for live entertainment, including music, comedy and maybe even one-act plays, Liegl said. That side of the theater would also retain a movie screen.
Although the theater has been closed for permanent business since about 2003, the Morgan Hill Redevelopment Agency purchased the building in 2008, and has attempted numerous times to enlist a private developer to improve the theater or replace it with a mixed-use residential and commercial project.
Since the RDA closed in 2012, the property has sat in limbo in terms of ownership, and the theater is now controlled by the RDA Oversight Board, with whom the MHGPS recently signed a lease. The City and other taxing agencies in the former RDA are in the process of trying to place the theater and nearby downtown properties (also formerly owned by the RDA) on the market for redevelopment, a transfer that requires state approval.
“The backbone of this community is the downtown,” Carrillo said. “So I want to help revive the backbone of this community. It will benefit everybody.”
Craig Bridges, owner of Campbell-based Nordic painting Inc., has donated all the paint and labor for the painting of anything at the Granada, according to Carrillo.
Liegl said the MHGPS is waiting on the architect to finish his final design plans so they can acquire the proper permits from the city and move forward with the renovation project, originally estimated at $30,000.
The MHGPS website is set up to take donations for the nonprofit society, and will list show and performance schedules when they are decided. The website is www.morganhillgranada.com.

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