Judge rules against Caruso

Americana at Brand developer Caruso Affiliated and the Glendale Redevelopment Agency could be on the hook for more than $1 million in damages after a judge on Wednesday ruled that they effectively forced a recording studio adjacent to close due to construction of the upscale mall.

In his ruling, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Rico sided with Backroom Entertainment owners, who argued that ground vibrations from demolition of nearby buildings in 2005 during construction of the 15.5-acre Americana forced the recording studio to close.

“Backroom Entertainment was literally and figuratively driven out of business,” Rico wrote.

Studio owners Brad Schmidt and Tim Feehan are seeking more than $1 million in damages. While Rico determined that the city and Caruso are on the hook, a separate jury trial will be held to determine the amount of damages. Rico did not indicate when that trial would begin.

Over the years, the studio at 230 S. Orange St. had hosted artists including Alicia Keys, Boyz II Men and rappers associated with the Ruthless Records label, but that all stopped when construction on the Americana ramped up.

Caruso acquired the now-vacant building last month in a bid to expand the Americana.

Attorneys for the city and Caruso said that the financially strapped studio had failed to show its troubles were caused by Americana construction and that the disruptions were a routine part of a large project. Rico disagreed.

“From February 2005 to approximately May 2008, Backroom Entertainment was confronted with demolition, grading and construction of the project,” Rico wrote. “To say this had an impact on Backroom Entertainment’s operation is to state the obvious.”

While the lawsuit now moves to a jury for damages, Caruso is continuing to push to acquire the last piece of land that stands in the way of plans to expand the mall to fully front Colorado Street — the Golden Key Hotel.

The Glendale Redevelopment Agency in November ordered the owner of the vacant building and Ray Patel, owner of the adjacent Golden Key Hotel, either to sell to Caruso or come up with a plan to redevelop their sites.

Patel and Caruso filed competing proposals last week that are scheduled to be reviewed at a redevelopment hearing later this month.