I was told a while back that Caruso Affiliated, run by Brentwood’s Rick Caruso, was in discussions with Charlie Munger to buy the site of the proposed Green Hollow Square. It’s where the Barry Building now sits and where Duttons Books used to be.
The building is all boarded up, closed because of seismic issues that Munger chose not to address.
Charlie was never a fan of the building and hoped to knock it down to build Green Hollow Square, which met with fierce resistance from neighborhood activists who feared added traffic burdens in the area.
According to my source, the rumor that Caruso might buy the property came from one of the parking lot attendants behind the property.
I emailed Caruso Affiliated Spokesperson Liz Jaeger and asked if there was a deal in the works. After looking into this, she said, “We do not have a deal.”
I asked if there were any conversations underway.
She responded: “Sorry, I cannot help you.”
“Cannot or will not?”
I didn’t hear back, which makes me think something might actually be going on here.
As far as I’m concerned, it would be a good thing if Caruso took over the property. It would be a shame to watch it continue to rot away over the next several years.
I also contacted the Office of Historic Resources, which oversees the granting of historic protections to buildings.
As part of its campaign to block Munger, activists convinced the city to grant the Barry Building protections based on the building’s 1950’s-style architecture.
I asked Manager and Principal City Planner Ken Bernstein, if there were a way the community could “undo” the historic protections and get the Barry Building knocked down.
He said there is nothing that specifically prevents a protected building from being knocked down, but there is a process that any new property owner would have to undertake in order to get approval, including a new Environmental Impact Report.
Bernstein said he hoped somehow a future owner would decide to keep the building and fix it up.
Back when Munger was pushing Green Hollow Square, there were lots of ideas floating around that included saving the building and building a bigger project around it. But that was a deal-killer for Charlie; he really didn’t like the Barry Building.
In my back-and-forth emails with Jaeger, I let her know that I had written some editorials over the years suggesting a retirement home/assisted living facility at that location would make for a wonderful addition to the community.
Many in Brentwood have told me how much they like this idea. When it’s time for us to move out of our homes and into a retirement village, where will we go? Currently, there is nowhere in Brentwood, and there’s a built-in market for this here. It also seems like an idea activists could support, since presumably the traffic impacts would be minimal. Even activists get old.
If there needs to be a blend of housing and retail in order to make this economically viable, surely there’s a way for creative people of good will to figure this out. Maybe a new retirement village could be built on top of some light retail? I’d like to see a small movie theater, a Mexican restaurant and a craft beer place. And a bookstore. And how about a public swimming pool while we’re at it?
I hope to meet with Caruso one day – at Early World, a building he now owns – and do some serious brainstorming. Maybe you’d like to join in.
If Caruso feels welcomed by the community – something poor Munger never got to experience – he might push harder to make something happen. Fingers crossed.
Have any ideas for the Munger property? Please send them to: [email protected] I’ll forward them to Liz Jaeger.