A church … in the old Wal-Mart? | NevadaAppeal.com

A church … in the old Wal-Mart?

Becky Bosshart
Appeal staff writer

Every so often I receive a request from a reader to update the situation with Max Baer Jr.’s building, a former Wal-Mart, in South Carson City.

There’s been plenty of drama in the past.

The former Hollywood star of “Beverly Hillbillies,” bought the 119,000-square-foot building at 4209 S. Carson St., in the summer of 2003 for $4.3 million. He’s been trying to develop it since. Baer’s dream is to turn the old Wal-Mart building into his $50 million Jethro’s Beverly Hillbillies Mansion and Casino.

The shopping center rules prohibit the development of a casino. Baer bought the property because he believed the other two property owners in the center – J.C. Penney and the Glenbrook Co., a development corporation headed by Carson City Supervisor Shelly Aldean – would amend the rules. They didn’t.

There’s been a lawsuit. Baer lost. The city has threatened eminent domain. Then it backed off. Sam’s Club has offered to buy it back. Baer said no. Business leaders have bemoaned the underused commercial space near the entrance of South Carson Street.

It gets really complicated. There were promises made at one point, and then broken later on. It’s hard to tell who is to blame in the whole debacle.

Aldean, who has had a large role in the issue because she once worked as Baer’s broker, says she just wants to see the property occupied, and only a big-box retailer would match the property.

As we enter the Christmas shopping season, I’m sure many residents would agree as they comb the stores looking for deals.

“It’s a prime commercial location and it has, in my estimation, tremendous value and potential,” she says. “People have inquired about it, but he’s not interested.”

Baer says that he wants to see his casino there. For some time now he’s been telling me that he’s been working on something, but won’t go into specifics.

In a recent conversation, Baer asserted that his building isn’t empty – he’s provided it to the community for various projects.

This is true. The old Wal-Mart has housed the Republican headquarters. Baer has used part of it to collect donations for Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Holiday and special events have been held there. Most uses are temporary. Some are indefinite.

Gem Ventures, a plant nursery and landscaping business, moved into the old Wal-Mart’s garden center in mid-2005.

He has a new round of occupants and activities:

• An arts and crafts business that sells “pie-shaped candles that look good enough to eat,” Baer says.

• A carpet store is using it for storage.

• A softball team plans to move its batting cages into the building.

“If I can help some people, why not,” Baer says.

In January, the Unity Church of Minden will start holding services in the former commercial building, Baer says.

I can’t help but smile at that. What better group to meet inside a building that has been a symbol of dissent.

• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.