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May 20, 2024
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Gourmet Alley work begins

Downtown businesses voice worries about impact of construction, final design

Construction began this week on the City of Gilroy’s grant-funded makeover of Gourmet Alley in the downtown, and some business and property owners are concerned about the possible impact the work will have on their operations. 

City officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the project on April 5, and construction began in earnest on Monday. The project—which is expected to be completed by the end of this year—will transform Gourmet Alley between Fourth and Seventh streets into a modern, spacious, pedestrian-friendly corridor that will complement existing retail and hospitality properties. 

By April 10, crews had installed temporary fencing around the construction site, moved heavy equipment onto the blacktop, marked off the locations where utility lines were buried and identified trees and other vegetation for removal. 

Mayor Marie Blankley at the April 5 groundbreaking said the project will consist of the resurfacing of Gourmet Alley and adjacent parking lots. It will also add lighting, trees, trash enclosures, benches, bike racks and improved signage and pavement markings. 

“This project aims to rejuvenate and enhance a vital access corridor within  the heart of our downtown,” Blankley said. “(Our) vision is to create a space that provides cleaner and better access to this historic downtown and allows for pedestrian-only enjoyment of that space for strolling, dining, shopping and visiting.”

The project is funded by a $3.9 million grant from California Department of Transportation’s Clean California Local Grant Program, which the city received in March 2022. The design of the project was completed by CSG Consultants, although city staff at a recent community meeting indicated that some of the finer details of the project are not yet finalized. 

The project’s construction contractor is San Martin-based Trinchero Construction. 

An April 3 community meeting held by city staff was attended by numerous downtown business owners within the Gourmet Alley project area. Gilroy City Administrator Jimmy Forbis did not hold back on the fact that the months-long construction project will impact the businesses and property owners. 

“We are going to be very disruptive,” Forbis said. “We are going to tear downtown up, and it is going to be a pain for all of you. But we hope you get through it with us, because it’s going to look really nice when we’re done.”

In response to various comments from business owners, Forbis assured that city staff will work closely with them throughout the construction to try to address their individual concerns. 

Many of the concerns are related to the closure of large parking lots between Gourmet Alley and Eigleberry Street during the construction. Downtown business owners said they rely on the parking for their customers, and some routinely need access to those areas for business operations. 

Tim Bostock, owner of TFB Designs on Sixth Street near the corner of Gourmet Alley, was concerned that he might lose access to his shop’s parking spots during construction. He and his staff use those spots every day for their business, which consists of designing and installing custom graphics for automobiles. 

His parking spots are essential to take measurements for each client vehicle, and to install the graphics after they are created, Bostock said. 

Bostock, who has owned the shop and property with his wife since 2011, added that he is worried the final design of the Gourmet Alley project might cut off TFB’s access to their parking spaces. Initial design documents indicate a gate of some sort could be installed at the entry to those spaces. 

City staff said the type of gate and final access layouts are among some of the details that could be updated before construction is complete. 

“We are working on the options,” Fobis said. “Give us a chance to work through that to see what we can figure out.”

During construction, Gourmet Alley, south of Fourth Street, will be closed to all pedestrian and vehicle traffic, according to city staff. The city’s public parking lots on Eigleberry between Fourth and Sixth streets will also be closed during construction. 

Alternate parking will be available at the Downtown Gourmet parking area at Seventh and Eigleberry streets; and at the Railroad parking lot at Sixth and Railroad streets. 

When the project is complete, the resurfaced parking lots will reopen with a different circulation pattern, city staff said April 3. 

Lea Orlando, co-owner of Shag Salon on Fifth Street near the corner of Gourmet Alley, shares concerns about the parking lot behind her shop being cut off for customers. 

Orlando also asked city staff to consider a vegetation plan that won’t cause problems similar to those resulting from existing trees in and around the parking lot. Over the years, the roots from those trees have grown into city sewer pipes in the ground, resulting in wastewater issues on the property, Orlando said. 

“We have trees in planters that are messing up all of our drain systems and sewer pipes,” Orland said at the April 3 meeting. “All of us in that parking lot have issues with drainage, and it goes from your parking lot into our businesses, and it’s (because of) your trees.”

Orlando said if the city is going to install new trees in that area, they should somehow ensure the roots won’t eventually damage underground pipes.  

Michael Moore
Michael Moore
Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.

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