Plans in works for landmark site

Photo by Robin Mayoff

The well-known Hi-Way Rooms building was recently demolished, and the new owner is working on plans for the property.

A little piece of Brentwood’s history that had long since fallen into disrepair was recently reduced to a pile of memories.

Now the wait is on to see what’s next for the property.

The Hi-Way Rooms — an 82-year-old building at 8460 Brentwood Blvd. that had degraded into an unoccupied eye sore — was razed in November, but the current owner hasn’t decided what’s next for the land.

“I am going to go to the city to see what they want,” said Brentwood resident Rakesh Kumar Bhargav, who purchased the building from longtime owner Frank Byron Bonnickson in 2016.

The former 3,956-square-foot building, constructed in 1937, has a long and storied history, but had deteriorated in recent years to the point that the city took preliminary steps to abate the property in 2008, before plans were halted by the city council.

The building was eventually red tagged by Brentwood’s chief building official in January 2016 after it was deemed uninhabitable. But because the building was secured from entry, it was decided no further action would be taken, said Brentwood Community Development Director Casey McCann.

County records show Bhargav purchased the property about seven months later from Bonnickson, who owned it since at least 1989.

Bhargav, a pastor at the East Bay Hindu Temple in Pittsburg, said he aimed to fix up the former building for an undisclosed purpose, but city officials said it was too old and needed to be torn down.

“I will go to the city and go from there,” Bhargav said. “Maybe the city can help me.”

Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor, who indicated he also doesn’t know what’s next for the property, said he was relieved to see the former run-down fixture removed.

“For me that has always kind of been a little bit of egg on Brentwood’s face, because it’s one of the first things you see when you come into town,” he said of the building’s removal. “I think it’s good for the city. Something that takes its place will obviously be more appealing than what was just taken down.”

While the former structure had seen better days, longtime locals are quick to point out that it generated its fair share of memories.

Local historians told The Press in 2013 that it served as a Greyhound bus station until the 1950s. At various times, Harry’s Barber Shop and a café were part of the property.

Hi-Way Rooms full of unanswered questions

East Contra Costa Historical Society President Doreen Forlow, whose family used to own the Delta Theater, fondly remembers the building serving as a bus station in the 1950s and 60s, where the theater’s movies were delivered as over 2-feet-wide reels.

“I would go there as a teenager because I could drive, pick up the film and deliver it (back to the theater),” she said. “I remember as a teenager it wasn’t a spooky place, but it wasn’t an inviting space. It was highway rooms — literally highway rooms.”

Faye Johnson told The Press in 2013 that she recalled playing billiards in 1944 when the building was a pool hall.

“My friends and I would have a lot of fun there,” said Johnson.

As memories continue to resonate, Taylor noted his excitement to see what pops up at the property.

“I can’t wait to see what is going in there,” he said.