Owners won't raze Phoenix Wright house — for now
But developer says if the property is declared historic, he'll wait the necessary 3 years and then knock down the 1952 home.
The owners who bought the house Frank Lloyd Wright designed for his son in Phoenix have let the demolition permit expire. They say they won’t reapply to raze the historic property while they wait for a buyer.
But if they don’t find one — well, that’s another story.
John Hoffman and Steve Sells, developers from Idaho, bought the 2,553-square-foot house this summer for $1.8 million, with plans to split the 2.13-acre lot into two, demolish the 1952-era house and build two new luxury homes on the site. "The dirt alone would be worth $1.2 to 1.4 million," Sells told The New York Times.
That plan was scotched when the city of Phoenix, which had given permission for the lot split, applied for historic designation for the property.
The developers paid $1 million less for the home then the previous owners had paid in 2009 to Wright’s granddaughters, who grew up in the house. Hoffman and Sells have rejected an offer of $2 million and currently have the house listed for $2.379 million.
If the house is not sold, Sells plans to be at the Nov. 7 City Council meeting to oppose the historic designation. He has vowed to sue if historic status is approved.
"Does the house deserve landmark status? Yes. This place needs to be preserved," he told The Times. "But when three Wright granddaughters sell it for $2.8 million, for me to carry the cross for Frank Lloyd Wright, that’s not fair."
Even if the house is given landmark status, that wins it only a three-year reprieve from the wrecking ball. If the owner finds keeping up the place a hardship, the reprieve may be even shorter, The New York Times noted in a story about the difficulty of historic preservation in Phoenix. Plus, property owners can file claims against a government agency if regulations decrease their property value. Voters approved that measure in 2006.
So while the owners of the David and Gladys Wright house are not pushing to demolish the home now, they don’t make any promises for the future, especially if the property is designated historic.
"I’ll move in, invite everybody to come in and take their pictures, and I’m going to wait three years," Sells told The Times. "Then I’m going to knock it down to recoup my losses."
About Teresa Mears
Teresa Mears is a veteran journalist who has been interested in houses since her father took her to tax auctions to carry the cash at age 10. A former editor of The Miami Herald's Home & Design section, she lives in South Florida where, in addition to writing about real estate, she publishes Miami on the Cheap to help her neighbors adjust to the loss of 60% of their property value.