Published in the December 23, 2015 – January 5, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

2015 Downtown Morgan Hill Holiday Tree at lighting ceremony

2015 Downtown Morgan Hill Holiday Tree at lighting ceremony

With the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve bringing a close to 2015, we at Morgan Hill Life have started reflecting on what stories and news events of significance took place in our community over the past year. In our Jan. 7 issue we published an editorial with the headline “The future looks bright for Morgan Hill in New Year” that ended: “It’s still a long way off for us to celebrate the switch over to 2016, but whatever might come in the New Year, we wish all the best for you and your family in the coming 12 months.”

Now, with the hindsight that comes from browsing through the past 26 issues of Morgan Hill Life, we can reflect on what happened in those 12 months and how our city and its people have grown. We predicted in our editorial that we would see more collaboration between the communities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill because of our common agricultural heritage. We’ve seen this happen, especially with the growing popularity of the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail which is attracting more visitors to the region’s wineries, according to the wine makers. That collaboration is also seen in the way the two Chambers of Commerce are working together in various aspects to help the region.

We also expressed concern at the beginning of the year for the state of health of Saint Louise Regional Hospital, which at that time was potentially going to be purchased by Prime Healthcare Services. The deal didn’t happen and we feared the Daughters of Charity might file for bankruptcy and the South Valley will no longer have a hospital to serve its citizens. The financial investment firm BlueMountain Capital came in with a $100 million offer, and in November California Attorney General Kamala Harris gave her seal of approval to the deal.

We also predicted in January that the arts and entertainment scene in downtown Morgan Hill would grow more popular. That has happened to a certain extent with more people coming to enjoy the music at GVA Cafe and The Hill Bar & Grill as well as the highly successful Friday Night Music Series produced by the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce. Audience numbers also have risen with the shows at the Community Playhouse performed by the South Valley Civic Theatre and the Poppy Jasper Film Festival. And a new business in downtown, the Morgan Hill Art Gallery, has brought in painting, photography and other artwork to enhance our lives and homes.

What we didn’t predict is how controversial the five-month Complete Streets lane closure of downtown would become in Morgan Hill. We were also surprised by the extent of the negative reaction from some members of the public to the large spider designed and built for the parking garage now undergoing construction on the lot between Third and Fourth streets. People were very vocal about their dislike for these two projects — and brought up their anger to City Council members. The lane closure idea was abandoned, but the spider will be installed on the garage for its grand opening expected next month.

Overall, we’re glad to say, Morgan Hill’s 2015 was a positive year. People are involved in protecting and enhancing the quality of life here, and we saw several prominent construction projects that in the coming years will help make our town a better community. Among them is the purchase by entrepreneur Frank Leal of the Downtown Mall and the Granada Theater. Leal will develop them as a boutique hotel, catering center and a performing arts center for dinner theater and corporate events. Another project that has grown over the course of the year is the Morgan Hill Inclusive Playground project which will be built at Community Park — fundraising is starting for this $2- to $3-million project, with the city of Morgan Hill providing the land and $50,000 to get things started. We look forward one day to seeing the everyone’s welcomed play place finished.

Another big project is the proposed Catholic high school in the Southeast Quadrant of Morgan Hill. The $30 million fundraising campaign kicked off in 2015 with the announcement of the high school’s name: The St. John XXIII College Preparatory High School. The name was selected to honor the pope who started the Vatican II conference in the 1960s with the goal to modernize the Catholic Church. Well underway to finishing next year, a large hotel building project is the new La Quinta Inn and Suites building which has made much progress in the property adjacent to The Ford Store. Developer Andrew Firestone wrote a guest column for Morgan Hill Life describing how he sees this area as a tourism destination, attracting visitors with our world-class wineries and restaurants.

Gavilan Community College also initiated a building project, with the groundbreaking this month of the Coyote Valley site. The first classes are expected to be held next fall, and it’ll take 10 years to complete this new campus, which is expected to attract many of Morgan Hill’s high school graduates interested in looking to furthering their higher education.

So what will happen to the Morgan Hill community as time makes its passage through the course of 2016? It’s still a long way off for us to celebrate the switch over to 2017, but whatever might come in the New Year, we wish all the best for you and your family in the coming 12 months.

Robert Airoldi

Robert Airoldi is the editor of Morgan Hill Life newspaper. If you have a story idea or an Around Town column item you want to tell him about, you can reach him at (408) 427-5865 or at editor@morganhilllife.com.
Robert Airoldi