The visitors came with a box of doughnuts and an offer to buy the Hollywood property that Funk Bros. Automotive had called home for more than a decade.
In its place, they said, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences wanted to build a movie museum.
Hovig Manouchekian, manager of his family's car repair shop, remembers the 2006 meeting with the academy's real estate agent and a representative of the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles as tense — with the two men pressuring him to make a deal, or force the CRA to seize the land with its powers of eminent domain.
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Manouchekian, 37, said he felt "bullied" that day, and during subsequent negotiations that resulted in the sale of the Funk Bros. property a year later.
Manouchekian believed that the academy would soon break ground on a sleek $400-million, 200,000-square-foot museum that would transform a stagnant section of Hollywood south of Sunset Boulevard into a tourist mecca.
But in 2011, the academy announced that it wouldn't build a museum on the site it had spent about $50 million to assemble. Instead, the Beverly Hills-based organization that stages the annual Oscars show said it would build a $300-million museum on the former May Co. site owned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art at Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.
At the time, the academy's then-president, Tom Sherak, said the organization had no plans to sell the Hollywood property and would instead use it to stage public events devoted to the cinema arts.
Then in January, Kilroy Realty Corp. disclosed that it had bought the site from the academy for $46 million. It plans to put up offices, retail space and housing on the property.
Manouchekian, whose family has relocated Funk Bros. to a leased garage nearby, feels misled.
"You throw out such a threatening term to scare businesses, and now there is no benefit to the community," he said.
The two men Manouchekian met with in 2006, John Perfitt of the CRA and Scott Katcher, the real estate agent representing the academy, insisted that they never threatened to seize the property through eminent domain during their discussions with the family.
"The academy as an organization, that's not their style," said Katcher, who works for Studley Inc.
But Los Angeles City Council member Mitch O'Farrell, whose district includes the former academy site, said he can understand why some business owners are upset.
"I don't blame them," O'Farrell said. "If you think about it, regardless of the eminent domain question, it's a bit of a bait and switch."
Less than a mile from the gleaming theater that will host Sunday's Oscar ceremony lies the parcel that Pritzker Prize-winning architect Christian de Portzamparc was to have turned into the academy's film museum.
The academy began assembling the land in the mid-2000s with the help of the CRA, the now-defunct state-chartered agency that was overseen by the City Council and formed to spur private investment in economically depressed areas.
The two organizations struck an agreement that called for them to work together on property acquisitions, the design of the prospective museum and the commissioning of various studies necessary for the project's approval by the city.