The former audio recording tenant of a now-vacant building adjacent to the Americana at Brand testified in court Wednesday that construction of the mega-mall forced him close and ship out.
In the lawsuit seeking more than $1 million in damages, Backroom Entertainment co-owners Brad Schmidt and Timothy Feehan claim demolition of nearby structures in 2005 and 2006 forced him to close, despite repeated appeals to Americana developer Rick Caruso and Glendale officials.
The construction was "devastating" to his studio, where artists including Alicia Keys, Brian McKnight and Boyz II Men, had recorded.
"You can't record if there is noise leaking into the recording studio," he said. "Artists don't complain much. They just don't come back."
The city and Caruso claim the demolition and construction of the 15.5-acre mixed-use center went according to plan and that Backroom Entertainment's claim is meritless.
Attorneys for the city and Caruso Affiliated point out that Backroom was a renter at 230 S. Orange St., a brick building adjacent to the Americana, and that environmental documents made clear that noise and vibrations would be unavoidable during construction.
The building was not part of the original Americana project, though it is in a redevelopment zone where the city has the power of eminent domain.
In November, Caruso asked the Glendale Redevelopment Agency for the right to remove the now-vacant studio building and the neighboring Golden Key Hotel to expand the Americana. The City Council gave the property owners until Jan. 27 to either submit redevelopment plans of their own or agreements to sell.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Glendale Redevelopment Agency official Mark Berry testified that he worked closely with Backroom Entertainment during construction of the Americana, informing them of construction and demolition schedules and finding solutions to their concerns about parking once nearby city lots were destroyed or in use by contractors.
Schmidt acknowledged that Berry was helpful, but said the year of nearby demolition work and then two years of construction effectively destroyed his business, pointing out that recording studios must block out all sound and vibrations in order to operate.
A 2004 test study, commissioned by Caruso, showed that his studio would not be viable with dirt compactors working around it, Schmidt testified.
"It was horrifying. It was so loud. There was so much vibration," he said.
After talking with the engineers conducting the test, "we had a real good indication that the game was over for us," Schmidt added.
The test report determined that it would cost more than $630,000 to adequately soundproof the building if it were to remain a studio.
At that point Schmidt hired a lawyer and filed the lawsuit in 2008, three months after construction was completed on the Americana.
The testimony comes in the first phase of a trial before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Richard Rico, who will rule whether the city and Caruso effectively condemned Schmidt's business by way of a lack of measures to protect against the construction.
If he rules they are not, the case is over, but if he sides with Backroom Entertainment, the trial would move to a jury to determine damages.
Schmidt will likely face cross-examination by Caruso and city attorneys on Thursday.