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Industrial development booming in Morgan Hill, changing its country charm

Industrial development booms in Morgan Hill
Industrial development booms in Morgan Hill 02:21

MORGAN HILL -- Morgan Hill, once boasting of its quiet country charm, is changing rapidly. On the north end of Butterfield Avenue in Morgan Hill, buildings and opportunities are sprouting like the fruit trees once did a century ago.

"Right behind me is Butterfield 5, five buildings, 410,000 square feet of R and D space. Across the street is MBK, 389 new housing units," said Morgan Hill's Economic Development Director Mathew Mahood.

It's all part of a plan to grow jobs in what is still mostly a bedroom community.

"Candidly, more than 70% of our workforce leaves Morgan Hill and goes either north or south. We want to keep them here, in town. We want to reduce their carbon footprint," Mahood said.

This brand-new complex doesn't even have a tenant yet, but the city hopes modern developments like this will help the city attract new businesses.

But not just any businesses. Morgan Hill can afford to be picky with which kind of businesses it wants.

"We don't want to be a distribution warehousing center-type city. We're focusing on R and D and manufacturing and high-end engineering-focused industries," Mahood said.

Along with the industrial space, there's housing construction, including market rate, low income and even farmworker housing. But neighbors say there's a struggle to find the right mix. The city, once bursting with a quiet country charm, has changed.

"It's dissipating, that country feel," said Susan Lillibridge, who lives in the hills above the city. "All that agriculture is new housing, new tract homes."

One longtime resident says the new activity, visitors, and new neighbors are good for a city's vitality, and the growth of its downtown and restaurant scene. It's progress she says has been a long time coming.

"The growth is OK with me because we had a moratorium for like 40 years," said Janet Specht, who's lived in Morgan Hill for 46 years. "I think people need a place to live."  

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