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Morgan Hill
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August 19, 2022

Letter: It takes a village to save a hotel?

I was heartened to hear and see, last weekend, many are finding their way to Morgan Hill’s downtown and enjoying all it has to offer. It truly has grown, offering more to many who visit.

One of the benefits of living in downtown Morgan Hill, since 1997, is to witness the highs and lows of business ventures as well as hear and feel the heartbeat of a “small town” community. 

My fondest memories lie in the period when BookSmart held the northwest corner of Second Street and Monterey Road, and served ice cream and hot dogs during the Friday Night Summer Music Series where families brought their young children and chairs to enjoy a warm summer’s evening. A real Norman Rockwell moment. 

Maybe there were 50 or 60 people gathering to hear Shane Dwight’s newest release. It was truly a fun, personal event for everyone. One that endeared Morgan Hill to many and left fond memories. Obviously, things have changed since then, but Morgan Hill keeps hold of a vision of Americana.

Morgan Hill’s City Council and staff over the years desired to develop the downtown, increase downtown housing, grow the tax base and pedestrian traffic, placing the very heart of Morgan Hill within downtown. In doing so, it took many risks; some say that the Americana past has been forgotten, but the community members, both new and old, enjoy Morgan Hill’s history.

Many young families have chosen to have a “small town” experience, bringing their families in search of community—something larger cities have a difficult time providing.  

Somehow, small towns are good at bonding, fulfilling one’s soul, allowing for healthy familial relationships to be born and nurtured. Small appeals to me. I enjoy knowing the names of those who share their time, labor and interests to make life a little bit more enriching. Racing through the big box stores I just can’t quite get the hang of who their customers are, what their lives are like or where their needs and wants lie. When I see people, I want to connect with them, feel the life that surrounds us, slow down, put all of the electronic age to the side and connect.

Morgan Hill’s commercial trade has increased, bringing more restaurants and patrons into the downtown sphere. Signs of success flow. Growing pains are real. How to deal with them remains unplanned, at least to the community at large.

Safety for downtown residents and patrons remains of concern as many find their way to the many fine options downtown offers. Adapting a landscape and downtown design to meet greater and more varied uses poses a challenge.

Blending old with new is never easy. Whether to hold onto the historical use of Monterey Road as a major state thoroughfare or keep a small town, community-based gathering place finds itself at a crossroads—one that many have found difficult to navigate. Indeed, there remains much to be done to get it right. The Morgan Hill Times’ recent article of Feb. 4 lays the groundwork for a community discussion.

What stuck out in my mind in your article “Sales Tax revenues rebound,” was the directness of Mr. Frank Leal letting the community know that the hotel and its community commitment will not be coming soon. The pivot from Redevelopment funds to community development would yet again possibly run off course, taking a sharp detour. Not surprising given the Sars Covid 2 times. 

As difficult as those words sound, they are honest and forthright, needed at this time. In fact, the Granada Hotel may not come at all if a funding partner(s) is (are) not found. If so, that’s quite a blow for a town of Morgan Hill’s size. 

Candidly, I have not formally met Mr. Leal; however, I appreciate his business acumen and him being upfront in Mr. Moore’s interview for the article.

Partnerships are more easily found for other ventures, such as the development of Del Monte and Second Street, and the Old Republic Building; but the Granada Hotel, obviously, requires a different level of investor—one that may not be easily found amidst the current endemic health crisis. A crisis of a proportion that only comes every millennium.

Given the dichotomy of what exists today—the business and economic climate as well as the social anxiety—bringing about a deliverable project is challenging. Mr. Leal deserves the backing of the community, but what are the parameters of a completed project?

Mr. Leal’s stated goals of delivering a high-end banquet hotel may yet be possible, yet difficult on the probable scale. To be honest, costs of delivery may well outstrip any returns for locating an investor, making outside interest challenging. One can still see the architectural renderings and the promise that they held just a few years ago. Hope remains in the community. But can hope birth a viable business model?

So, if the Granada Hotel fails to be delivered, then what will happen to the existing “Syrian style structural concrete” behemoth blasting music from its attenuating amphitheater like mass? Does it remain? Marketing itself as a high profit alcohol sale model makes for a stronger bottom line to ballast the difficult times of a Covid era, absolutely. But can the MOHI Social Club morph itself into The Granada Hotel by unearthing an angel investor with a passion for high end boutique hotels? This entrepreneurial model needs leadership.

Without question, Mr. Leal is a talented businessman with grand ambitions. Kudos to him for displaying such courage. Leadership and its application pose the greatest probability of achieving success for a possible metamorphosis of downtown Morgan Hill. I, for one, wish him the utmost success, for Morgan Hill is better off with it. Success is a mutually held goal.

Maybe this election year will bring about a mayoral candidate capable of deploying leadership, bringing honest conversations and communication to Morgan Hill’s growing community.  Many are looking for local leadership.

Thank you to Mr. Moore and the Morgan Hill Times for being a conduit for local conversations, discussions and dialog. Looking forward to seeing you downtown.

Erin Gil

Morgan Hill

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