Santa Cruz Sentinel: Crews move Hihn apple barn, marking milestone in Aptos Village Project

23 Sep Santa Cruz Sentinel: Crews move Hihn apple barn, marking milestone in Aptos Village Project

By Kara Guzman
Santa Cruz Sentinel

The first piece of the new $40 million civic heart for Aptos Village began moving into place Thursday morning, as crews pulled the historic Hihn Apple Barn on rollers toward its new location, 500 feet away.

The approximately 125-year-old building, which housed Village Fair Antiques from 1965 to 2015, will be rotated and refurbished, to become a New Leaf Community Market. It will connect to a new building, which will house the market’s entrance on the ground floor, with office space above.

The Hihn Apple Barn relocation has been months in the making, as crews cleaned the interior, braced the structure with I-beams, and divided it into sections. Interior walls that were not part of the original structure were removed, along with the carpeting and drop ceiling.

When the market opens, visitors will see a section of the barn, which will retain the original wood flooring and walls, along with text and illustrations about the barn’s original purpose: first for storing hay, then for packing apples. Historical artifacts from the barn, such as a vintage scale for apples, will be displayed, said Mary Gourlay, development project manager for Barry Swenson Builder, the San Jose general contractor company heading the project.

“More than ever, the public will be able to see the original historical features of the barn,” such as the ceiling beams, Gourlay said.

Thursday, media crews assembled on the dusty 8-acre plot — the future site of a public square — to witness the barn’s move. The first phase of construction, expected to be complete in roughly 18 months, includes the barn’s renovation and accompanying mixed use office/market building. It also includes the village common — a 16,000 square-foot outdoor area with a paved section, a green, trees, bike parking, seating and a stage. Seven buildings will be constructed, including mixed-use retail and apartment buildings and a restaurant with residential units above.

Phase one also includes the construction of 17 town homes, and new streets called Parade Street, Granite Way and Aptos Village Way. A total of 40 residential units will be built in this phase, said Gourlay.

“Everything is designed to be a very walkable community,” she said.

The second phase, which is expected to take two years to complete, includes six buildings, with a total of 29 residential units above, and retail space below. A park will also be completed, at the entrance to Nisene Marks State Park.

Gourlay said her company has received “tremendous interest” in the retail and residential space, and most of the callers are local.

“Literally, people have been contacting us on a weekly basis, and it’s a daily basis at this point in time,” said Gourlay. “It’s not people from San Jose. It’s people from here.”

Kevin Newhouse, a historian at the Aptos History Museum, was one of dozens who watched the barn’s move Thursday. While not the oldest building in Aptos, it is the last building from Aptos’s “apple era,” he said, which lasted from 1900 to the mid-1900s.

Before it became known for its apples, Aptos was “rough and rugged,” due the logging industry that dominated the town in the 19th century, he said.

“The type of people who were involved (in logging), you worked hard, you drank hard, and that’s basically all you did,” Newhouse said.

The rise of the apple industry was a shift toward a more “quiet and quaint” town, and apples carried Aptos into its current “tourist era,” he said.

The Aptos Village project saved the Hihn Apple Barn, said Newhouse.

“I don’t know how much longer this building would have lasted. There wasn’t anyone really willing to put in the time and money,” he said. “Aptos is a relatively young town. To preserve the history of the town’s earliest industries is really significant.”

See the photos here.

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