Friendly Inn tenants begin move-in to renovated center

Source:  Morgan Hill Times, by Robert Haugh

The City of Morgan Hill can cross out one of its 2009 resolutions: complete the Friendly Inn renovation project.  The project was awarded to Kent Construction in March and was completed earlier this month. Its first tenant, the Mount Madonna YMCA, will begin moving in today.

When the project was approved last year, it was heralded as a forward-thinking move by city staff. Shared space is a newer concept in the nonprofit world and the Friendly Inn tenants can work collaboratively on projects, tenants have said.

The building, at 17666 Crest Ave., north of Main Avenue, was upgraded to meet current disabilities standards and to repair termite and other structural damage. The Friendly Inn was designed and constructed to US Green Building Council's LEED Gold standard, but the city will not seek certification since that's an added expense.

Built in 1963, the facility has housed the city's senior center, the YMCA and a community center and gym. The American Legion donated the land to the city, and was housed there too. How the Friendly Inn got its name is a mystery, but it was never an inn in the traditional sense.

The old senior center, on the north side of the property, was torn down and a community garden is planned for that side of the campus.

Tenants at the new Friendly Inn will include Advent Ministries, which will conduct family and youth counseling in their office space. The American Red Cross's Silicon Valley Chapter will have an office as well as a training room, which will be shared with Narcotics Anonymous. The substance abuse support group meets daily, Volunteer Coordinator Karen Lengsfield said.

"We are excited to have a permanent presence in the community," said Red Cross spokeswoman Cynthia Shaw. The Red Cross holds meetings and training sessions at four sites throughout the city, but the move will allow them to consolidate to just the one site at the Friendly Inn, Shaw said. The disaster assistance group will hold meetings and training sessions on CPR and first aid at the facility.

"It's important to be a part of the community and get the training and support it needs," she said.

All the nonprofits will share a large lobby area, which will be staffed with a Work 2 Future employee who will greet visitors, Lengsfield said. Work 2 Future is a job placement program. The lobby area was once the gym. YMCA will move from their West Second Street headquarters to occupy the southern side of the Friendly Inn complex. On the north side, the nonprofits will share a common conference room.

The project was under budget by more than half a million dollars, spending $1.6 million of the allotted $2.2 million. The renovation was paid for through Redevelopment Agency funds.

Each tenant will pay a $1 annual rent to the city. The city will coordinate a grand opening celebration in January.

Friendly Inn tenants begin move-in to renovated center