Green Barn sells to real estate investor

David Briggs
Point Reyes Station’s historic Green Barn, which served a short life as a maintenance station with a turntable for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, has been purchased by real estate investor Vera Cort. Ms. Cort has no certain plans for the building—except to paint it red again—and said she is open to ideas from the community.   
07/14/2021

The Green Barn in downtown Point Reyes Station, owned for over two decades by Inverness resident Rip Goelet, sold last week to Bay Area real estate investor Vera Cort.

Her son, Robert Cort, is working with her on the property and is himself a real estate investor, having purchased the long-defunct Byron Hot Spring Hotel in Contra Costa County in 2019. 

No plans have yet taken shape for the 13,000-square-foot building—except perhaps one. “I don’t know what we’re going to do with it, but I would like to paint it red again,” Mr. Cort said. 

He declined to publicly disclose the sale price. In the last major commercial building sale in town, in 2020, the Emporium Building sold for $2.3 million, to a group of local investors. The Green Barn itself was on the open market for some months in 2007 with a list price of about $1.78 million.

Ms. Cort began investing in real estate in San Francisco through her late husband, a lawyer who started buying property later in life. “This is her first piece up north,” Mr. Cort said.

The Green Barn, long known as the Red Barn, was built in 1920 by the Northwestern Pacific Railroad as a maintenance station, with a turntable for trains where the gravel lot is now. At the time, Point Reyes was on a line roughly halfway between Sausalito and Cazadero.

“It added to the importance of Point Reyes Station’s centrality on the railroad,” historian Dewey Livingston said. But the railroad company soon started pruning back the northern part of the route. In 1930, Point Reyes became the end of the line, and in 1933, the company shuttered the stop.

According to Point Reyes Light archives, the building was used for hay storage until the West Marin Lions Club purchased it in 1947. The club fixed it up, added a shed and within a few years began holding the Western Weekend Livestock Show and other events there, including crab feeds, barbecues and graduation parties. “It was like a general community center,” Mr. Livingston said.

But in the early 1970s, a community center started by the next generation of residents, some new to the area, emerged in the form of the Dance Palace, and over time it tended to be the older generation holding events at the Red Barn. Mr. Livingston said the change echoed a previous generational shift in community hubs, from the Foresters Hall to the Red Barn.

The barn housed KWMR in its nascent days, and in the early 1990s, the YMCA leased it, offering up basketball and weightlifting facilities. But budget cuts spurred the YMCA to end the lease, a financial pickle for the Lions Club. Eventually, due to declining membership and climbing maintenance costs, the group put the building up for sale. The club initially planned to sell to Inverness resident Marshall Livingston, but changed its mind at the last minute—igniting some controversy—and sold to Rip Goelet in 1999. In 2005, Mr. Goelet had the Red Barn painted green.

The recent sale happened quickly; the property never went on the open market. Mr. Cort had been intrigued by West Marin, at one point reaching out to the owner of the Grandi Building, Ken Wilson, to see if he was interested in selling. (He wasn’t.) Later he heard that the barn might soon be for sale. 

A bit of online research revealed that real estate agent Scott Murphy had helped Mr. Goelet on a well-publicized deal in 2018 to preserve, through easements, 1,600 acres of redwood forest. Mr. Cort reached out to Mr. Murphy, and the rest happened rapidly.

“We put a deal together, and 30 days later it was over,” Mr. Murphy said.

Mr. Goelet told the Light that he thought it was time for “new blood.” 

“I just thought it was time for someone else to own and develop it,” he said, “hopefully doing something exciting for Point Reyes Station,” something “the community can get behind.”

The Green Barn consists of a primary building, which is about 5,600 square feet; a kitchen and bar area, about 2,700 square feet; and a 4,200-square-foot shed with a dirt floor. 

Currently, the only lease on the building is with Horizon Cable, which Mr. Cort said rents a small room for infrastructure and land for satellite dishes. The Corts have given the company a one-year lease and wants “to work with them to stay there if possible.”

As for what the future holds for the Green Barn, aside from a possible paint job? The possibilities are broad; the property is zoned for commercial and residential use. The Corts have mulled various ideas, including a small grocery, a restaurant and a brewery, though possible septic issues could make a brewery uncertain, he said. Mr. Cort said his family wants something both tourists and the community can enjoy, and they are open to suggestions and pitches—in fact, that is part of the appeal. 

“I would love for someone to approach me with some ideas,” he said. “At this point, being open to creative ideas is what attracted me to the property, as opposed to something that is finished and rented.” 

But, he added, his family wants to “take it slow.” “We’re still digesting our purchase,” he said.