How to kill a downtown without really trying

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Sheriff Curtis Hill’s vision of creating a combined justice
center
– the Sheriff’s Department, juvenile hall, courthouse, probation
department and district attorney’s office – in a location near the
county jail on Flynn Road would deliver a crushing blow to downtown
Hollister.
Sheriff Curtis Hill’s vision of creating a combined justice center – the Sheriff’s Department, juvenile hall, courthouse, probation department and district attorney’s office – in a location near the county jail on Flynn Road would deliver a crushing blow to downtown Hollister.

The sheriff’s deputies, office staff, court employees, people who visit the courthouse on businesses and local lawyers who set up shop nearby are all part of the county’s legal hub downtown that form a vital part of our downtown economy. As they eat lunch, buy coffee and run errands, they are spending money with downtown merchants. Moving that hub away to a remote location on the outskirts of town would take dollars out of the pockets of merchants who are having enough trouble staying in business.

That would be a shame.

“It would hurt business, and not only for me, but for any other business around the area,” said Christine Richard, who recently opened Bistro 427 on San Benito Street.

Hollister’s Redevelopment Agency is looking at spending millions of dollars to get projects that will draw people and revitalize our historic downtown. It would be shortsighted for another branch of government to deal the downtown a blow by moving away. Simply put, one of the easiest things governments can do to maintain a downtown is to stay there.

It’s interesting to note that Santa Clara County is looking a putting a new courthouse in downtown Morgan Hill, and expects it to be a big shot in the arm for the local economy.

Hill has commissioned a study to look at the needs of his department and ways to satisfy those needs. It seems clear that the 55-year-old department is cramped, leaky and inadequate. But there are options to spending millions to creating a new justice center out of town. The Old Fremont School, for instance, is owned by the city of Hollister and sits vacant across the street from the courts and sheriff’s department.

Fortunately, there is time to do the right thing. It could take the county at least three years to gather the funding necessary to make such a move. In the meantime, the study must look at all the options including finding a way to keep the justice community where it is.

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