The Latest in the Wright House Demolition Saga: The Developers Tell Their Side

Courtesy of Curbd LA

The David Wright House, a hidden gem that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for his son, still stands, but its fate remains precarious.

On October 9th, the  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.

Courtesy of Curbd LA

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.”

Courtesy of User SDR on the Save Wright Chat page

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 , 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 

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "The Latest in the Wright House Demolition Saga: The Developers Tell Their Side" 26 Oct 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 Jul 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=286972>

5 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down +5

    Really? They bought a house for several mil that was obviously architecturally important and didn’t think that might be a roadblock for them destroying it? Doesn’t hold water to me. If it does, than these developers are a couple of morons.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    “…had no idea of the house’s architectural significance.”
    I have worked with “developers” whose architectural knowledge is an inverse relationship to their bank accounts, often exponentially.
    Let’s see, 27,000 petitioners @ a $100 contribution each…

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    sometimes, an issue is black and white, no grey areas in between; these people are developers, with only interest in money… since when do we need to “be fair” to greedy, money-hungry, uneducated and ignorant (according to their own admission here if we are to believe them, and if not, then boldface liars) developers whose idea of fairness is bloating their own bottom line? it is wrong to destroy our architectural heritage for profit… Americans may not be interested in anything but money and profit, but FLW transcends nationality…

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    The question is, if someone can explain the people, that a FLW house is more worth alive then dead. It will gain on value in the future. Or would you erase a Picasso sketch, to sell the canvas for a new drawing?!

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Let’s be clear here, these guys knew right from the beginning what they where buying. The sellers didn’t come to them saying “this is a random house”, they marketed it, added a sale value by saying “this is a house which is culturally as precious as a Monet’s painting”.
    There is NO WAY they didn’t know the cultural value of the house: I suspect they expected a resale value from this, attracted by the money and nothing else, like a greedy art buyer thinks he’ll make money over a painting found in a secondand market. If it was their plan, it backfired on them as they didn’t get the price expected, and now what I see is that they use the mass media to get the prices up by threatening to destroy it.

    It’s like if I bought famous painting and threatened to destroy it if I wasn’t given twice the price I paid for it.

    Am I the only one here thinking there should be a law against that and that these people should be fined?

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