On October 9th, the Arizona Planning Commission met to discuss the proposed landmark designation for the house, an event which attracted over 100 people. According to The New York Times, only 3 people voted against the designation, including the house’s current owners, the developers of 8081 Meridian, John Hoffman and Steve Sells.
When the pair bought the house back in June for only $1.8 million (from the pair the Wright’s granddaughters had sold the house to for $2.8 million), they thought it was “too good to be true.” The property alone could make up to $1.4 million; the pair hoped that by splitting the lot they could make even more.
Unfortunately however, Mr. Sells had no idea of the house’s architectural significance. As he told The New York Times, he didn’t know the difference “between Frank Lloyd Wright and the Wright brothers. ”
More on the Developers’ side of this demolition tale, after the break…
Unbeknownst to them, when the pair received their demolition permit in August, preservationist efforts were already under way. By September, under pressure from preservationists, the city invalidated the permit. By October, the story was being covered in The New York Times and TIME. By press-time, the FLW Building Conservancy has just shy of 27,000 votes in their online petition.
Of course, the house, “one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most innovative, unusual and personal works of architecture,” deserves to be preserved – a fact that even Sells and Hoffman admit. But the two are adamant that Landmark Designation is not the best solution – not for them, and not for the house either.
According to Michelle Dodds, the city’s historic preservation officer, landmark designation in Arizona “doesn’t save. It just delays” demolition for three years. And, if that happens, Mr. Sells says he’ll move in, ” invite everybody to come in and take their pictures, [...] wait three years. Then I’m going to knock it down to recoup my losses.”
And, in a way, you can’t blame them. The Wright granddaughters sold the house to a pair they trusted to preserve it, who then sold it to developers without any idea of its historical value. As Sells puts it: ”This place needs to be preserved, 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.”
In the end, the only way to truly preserve the house would be for a philanthropically-minded buyer to swoop in and save the day. Sells and Hoffman have already rejected a $2-million dollar offer from an anonymous FLW fanatic, and, according to real estate broker Robert Joffe, have listed the house at $2,379,000. Joffe’s hopeful that a buyer will buy the property to donate it to a Wright foundation or use it as housing for students at a Wright-affiliated school.
The City Council is scheduled to vote on November 7 on the Wright house’s landmark status. Which leaves just under two weeks, and just one question: Any buyers out there?
Story via The New York Times