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January 23, 2021

Pride & Progress: Granary District brings the past to the future

With half a dozen new residential and commercial projects in various stages of completion in downtown Morgan Hill, The Granary District on Depot Street is shaping up to become the neighborhood’s hippest “district within a district,” according to the developer.

Residents are expected to start moving into 16 new condominium units at Barley Place, located at the corner of Depot Street and East Main Avenue, by the end of November, according to Sam Carlson, project manager for developer Weston Miles Architects. All 16 units are already sold.

Those new residents won’t have to walk or ride their bicycles far to enjoy a variety of eating and entertainment options outside their door. Barley Place is just one aspect of Weston Miles’ Granary District, a mixed-use, multi-structure complex of offices, restaurants, a retail store, a beauty salon and a craft beer establishment—all within a one-block radius.

Carlson explained that while the vision for Barley Place started out about three-and-a-half years ago with a plan for 30 high-density residential units, the effort evolved into the current combination of projects characterized by sheet-metal siding and weathered wood trim that recalls the agricultural, early-industrial era when Morgan Hill became a city.

“We whittled our plan down to 16 units. We decided the mix of residential and commercial tenants really made sense for each other,” Carlson said during a recent tour of the Barley Place condos, where contractors were hanging drywall inside.

“Barley Place became this extension of the Granary District, to make it a place where you would want to live,” Carlson added.

The newest commercial establishment at the Granary District is The Grapevine restaurant and wine bar, where owner Valerie Evans is planning a grand opening Oct. 7.

The Grapevine is just next door—tucked into a relaxing, sun-soaked plaza off the edge of Depot Street—to Running Shop and Hops, which opened just over a year ago. The Running Shop and Hops has become a bustling craft beer haven, with more than 80 beers—mostly microbrews made in California—on tap.

Paul and Renee Rakitin, the owners of the shop, have had so much success slinging beer that they expanded into an attached space, formerly occupied by their retail running shoe and apparel store, with a variety of games and social space for their brew customers.

Just across the plaza, adjacent to the Depot Street sidewalk, is Bike Therapy, Morgan Hill’s newest bicycle retail shop. Owned by local resident Doug Hall, Bike Therapy celebrated its opening with a Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting Sept. 14.

On the south side of the original Granary building is Gloss Beauty Lounge. Gloss opened in 2016.

These new businesses and residences add to the offices (including the Morgan Hill Times) and Odeum restaurant that have kept the Granary building busy at 17500 Depot Street since Weston Miles extensively remodeled the former agricultural facility in 2006.

A ‘different’ project for MH

The Barley Place residences are mostly single-story “condominium flats,” ranging from 1,200 to 1,400 square feet, each with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Exceptions are four loft units, with three bedrooms and ranging from 2,200 to 2,300 square feet, Carlson explained.

Two of the units have small backyards.

“It’s different from what you typically see in Morgan Hill,” Carlson said. “There aren’t a lot of condos in Morgan Hill.”

Each unit will have two designated parking spaces. A wide range of buyers have signed up to live at Barley Place, from first-time homeowners to “downsizers” and people who pointedly wanted to live closer to downtown and its easy accessibility.

“They want to be closer to the community center, where expansive yards and things like that are not as important,” Carlson added.

The construction has relied on mostly local subcontractors, he noted.

Time for wine

Valerie Evans is an industrious entrepreneur who brings her vast experience as a business owner and salesperson to The Grapevine in Morgan Hill. In fact, she previously owned a Grapevine wine bar in Willow Glen, which she sold in 2013.

Also a mortgage broker, Evans first joined that Grapevine as an employee, after the housing market crash of 2007 led her to culinary school in Campbell. She became a certified sommelier, and interned at Grapevine of Willow Glen before she ended up purchasing it.

While she had planned to move out of the area in 2013, those plans changed and she started to miss the Grapevine. She thus set out on a search for the best location for a new specialty wine bar and artisanal restaurant, which she found in downtown Morgan Hill.

The Grapevine of Morgan Hill will pour a variety of local and regional wines, with some foreign varieties. “Probably about two-thirds of the wines will be from California, with a huge emphasis on Santa Clara Valley, the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Carmel Valley,” Evans said. “The other third (of the wines) will be international.”

The new restaurant will also feature a “smokeless kitchen” and a menu that features artisanal cheeses, small-plate dishes, gourmet grilled cheese sliders and desserts.

“Ideally we want people to come in and dine with us. We hope to be the starting point or ending point of their evening, if they don’t want to dine with us,” Evans said.

The Grapevine will celebrate its grand opening Oct. 7.

‘Great chemistry’

Doug Hall, owner of Bike Therapy, agrees there is “great chemistry” among the different commercial uses of the Granary District.

Hall brings his own vast experience in sales to Morgan Hill with Bike Therapy. He has worked in numerous bike shops over the years, primarily in sales. Years before he moved to Morgan Hill with his wife Jodi recently, he worked for Fox Clothing, which was local at the time.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Hall said of having his own bike shop. Bike Therapy not only sells a variety of bicycles—including many from local industry behemoth Specialized—the shop also features a full service department and all kinds of supplies and apparel.

He and his staff are eager to become a part of the Morgan Hill community, which he called a “great cycling town.” They want to organize group rides, promote cycling in the local schools and “do a lot of fun events to get more people on bikes.”

Hall and Evans, in separate interviews, equally praised the City of Morgan Hill’s Economic Development team—consisting of Edith Ramirez and John Lang—for helping them secure their new business locations.

The completion of a vision

Charles Weston and Lesley Miles, the married owners of Weston Miles Architects—also located in the original Granary building—moved to Morgan Hill in 1980.

At that time, the downtown was full of dirt lots as well as agricultural and industrial truck traffic, and lacking sidewalks.

But they saw early on that Morgan Hill was going to grow, and the need for a variety of more modern land uses typical of a downtown neighborhood would only increase. The Granary building—an underutilized agricultural building—was threatened with demolition.

“We saw that if we took the all of downtown and quartered it, and named (the quarters), it would create uniqueness and understanding,” Weston explained. “The Granary District was this quarter where the Granary, the Granary Retail and Barley Place now reside. We wanted to create a destination, with its unique old and new, distinctive architecture which in the case of the Granary was very much agricultural in style.”

Carlson, an experienced civil engineer who is married to Weston and Miles’ daughter Alicia, joined the family business to help bring Barley Place to reality. The result is a modern development that harkens back to the property’s agricultural history.

“If you look closely to the Train Depot and know a bit about the history of the buildings that once were or still here, you will see details from them that acknowledged our past in this relatively new building,” Weston said.

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