gmhTODAY 01 gmhToday Mar Apr 2015 - Page 66

morgan hill economic development An Economic SnapShot Written By Larry J. Mickartz M uch of Morgan Hill’s economic efforts are tied to the now defunct RDA (Redevelopment Authority, started in 1981). After building the Community Cultural Center, the Centennial Recreation Center, the Outdoor Sports Park the Aquatics Center and other projects the City was well on its way to further redevelopment. However, the California budget crisis and the State’s takeover of RDA funding in 2011 put a halt to future Morgan Hill RDA funding and plans. In 2012 the City Council as the Successor Agency took over for the shut down RDA and is responsible for the remaining funds. Edith Ramirez, Principal Planner for Economic Development, City of Morgan Hill, delights in the potential for Morgan Hill Downtown…It’s Happening, to make a major difference in the Downtown, specifically, and Morgan Hill, in general. This project under the supervision of the Successor Agency has four major components: • Downtown Parking Structure • Street Improvement • Monterey Road • Parks & Trails The goal of the project is simple, “Make Downtown the most…walkable, bike- friendly, urban, family-oriented, and transit oriented neighborhood in Morgan Hill.” The Downtown Parking Structure is a three-story 275 space parking structure between Third and Fourth Streets down- town. The structure will include some retail space and improvements to the roadways around the structure. The price tag for this is $17.3 million. Currently the City Council, acting as the Successor Agency, 66 is considering art options for the design. Construction is scheduled for April- November 2015. The Street Improvement component has a $3.15 million budget and will include utility under grounding, street lights for First and Second Streets between Del Monte and Depot. Third Street west of Monterey will also have utility under grounding and various road and sidewalk improvements. Monterey Road will have improved lighting, pedestrian safety, median repair, and landscaping. There is $1.67 million for this component. Parks & Trails will include new parks on Third Street, west of Ladera Grill and on Depot Street, and a new trail on “Hilltop” around the water tower with a connection to the existing trail at West Dunne Avenue. The Third Street trail will wander east towards Butterfield. Protected crosswalks are also proposed on DelMonte at Dunne and Main. Funding is $1.15 million. These four projects are under the umbrella of a Placemaking Strategy: “Creatimg a unique, fun, and social environment is accomplished by creating spaces that offer people many things to do like offering places to eat, shop, sit, play, experience history, art, interesting design and offering entertainment and places for families, children and pets.” Parallel to these efforts, the City Council, as the Successor Authority, is currently seeking proposals (RFP’s) on four downtown development sites and one retail site. The four development sites were assets of the former RDA and are now held in trust by the Successor Agency. The retail site is a 4,000 square foot space in the Downtown Parking Structure. The G M H T O D A Y M A G A Z I N E MARCH / APRIL 2015 proposals were due in December 2014. The schedule calls for Compensation Agreements by August 2015. Another piece of this Placemaking Strategy will begin in February with the Monterey Road Complete Street Project. This consists of a six-month project to test the future permanent configuration of Monterey Road from Main Avenue to Dunne Avenue. The new configuration essentially consists of eliminating one lane of vehicle traffic in each direction, adding a Class II bike lane with a 3-3.5 foot buffer on the vehicle side. The goal for this pilot is to reduce vehicle speed, discourage truck traffic, provide more safety for bicyclists, and maintain emergency vehicle flexibility. The downside will be longer vehicle travel time along this corridor. The project had multiple evaluation timelines and criteria. The pilot is scheduled from February to July 2015. Even with all this going on, the City of Morgan Hill forges ahead with a new general plan, Morgan Hill 2035, to help guide development and conservation in the city over the next 20 years.  Housing development is limited to 255 units per year except for certain infill and downtown projects. In Morgan Hill there is a tremendous economic energy focused on the down- town…already a great place to be and one that has a great future for a walkable, bike friendly, livable downtown…the heart of a very desirable city. Sources: Downtown Morgan Hill, Planning Incentive Strategy ( DocumentCenter/View/12597)