The City of Gilroy is seeking proposals to develop the 536 acres that include Gilroy Gardens into a recreation destination. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

The City of Gilroy is reaching out to developers to see if they have a plan to turn the 536 acres around Gilroy Gardens into a recreation destination.

The Gilroy City Council on Nov. 2 agreed to circulate a request for proposals for the “Hecker Pass Highway Tourism and Recreation Development Opportunity.” The RFP will be released Nov. 16, with submissions due by Jan. 19.

In September, the council declared Gilroy as a recreation destination following the recent formation of the Gilroy Economic Development Partnership. The group, which held its first meeting in March, consists of representatives from the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, Gilroy Economic Development Corporation, Downtown Business Association, Visit Gilroy, Gilroy Gardens and Gavilan College, as well as Gilroy’s mayor and city administrator. 

The group has focused its efforts on three areas: the proposed ice rink at the Sports Park, the 536 acres at Gilroy Gardens and downtown’s Gourmet Alley.

City Administrator Jimmy Forbis said the RFP will give city officials an idea of what options are out there for the 536 acres. He said all options are being explored, including selling the city-owned property.

Jane Howard of Visit Gilroy, who is involved with the economic development partnership, said time is of the essence for Gilroy to begin its financial recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Gilroy views tourism as a key driver of economic recovery in a post-Covid-19 world,” she said. “Moving forward with this RFP’s adoption starts that process.”

The 536 acres have been the subject of proposed development in recent years. In 2017, the city was in negotiations with Great Wolf Lodge to build a 700-room resort on a portion of the property. The lodge eventually chose Manteca to build its next resort.

Gilroy Gardens, meanwhile, is considering an expansion that would add bike trails, zip lines and other recreational activities on a 350-acre hillside behind the gardens.

The 20-page RFP document describes the property as well as the city’s goals for it. It adds that potential redevelopment projects could include “portions occupied by Gilroy Gardens.”

“The city welcomes economically productive, inspiring, and thoughtful responses to this RFP that best express the city’s objective to create a project that will establish Gilroy as a top-tier family-oriented outdoor recreation destination in the San Francisco Bay Area,” the RFP states. “The Gilroy community prioritizes future uses that will create direct, indirect and induced revenue while supporting local businesses, creating new jobs that employ local residents, elevating Gilroy’s status as a visitor destination and expanding Gilroy’s tourism brand beyond the Garlic Festival.”

General Plan approved

The council also voted to approve Gilroy’s 2040 General Plan, marking the end of a seven-year process to create the document that guides development in the city for the next 20 years.

According to Mayor Roland Velasco, more than 40 people served on the General Plan Advisory Committee since its first meeting in 2013.

The draft document had to be revised after Gilroy voters approved an urban growth boundary in November 2016, which reduced the potential growth areas in the city.

“This is an important planning document,” Velasco said. “The General Plan will guide the future of the city.”

An environmental impact report found that 1,119 acres of farmland would be lost under the plan. Mitigation measures could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other impacts to a “less than significant level,” the report stated.

To view the 2040 General Plan, visit

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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