PHOENIX For sale: a four-bedroom, four-bathroom piece of history made of galvanized steel and concrete, rising above a landscape of cactus and citrus trees in one of this citys most sought-after neighborhoods.
It is priced at $2.379 million. It needs a little TLC. Oh, and it was built by Frank Lloyd Wright, architectural icon.
Its owners, John Hoffman and Steve Sells, high school contemporaries from Meridian are hoping to sell the house before Nov. 7, when the City Council is set to vote on giving it landmark status, a process they oppose.
Although they agree the house ought to be saved The property is gorgeous, Sells said from its master bedroom one morning they must first safeguard their investment, as well as their livelihood.
If it becomes a landmark, Sells went on, were out of business.
The house, built in 1952, bears Wrights signature on a red tile by its front door equal parts seal of approval and certificate of authenticity. The wood on cabinets, doors, desks, shelves and sofas, all designed by Wright, sparkled, having been brought to life by coats of lemon oil Sells diligently applied early this week, as a fresh real-estate listing went live.
Piano hinges, which line cabinets and doors from top to bottom, still hold strong. The floor, in colored concrete, has cracks that show its age but also lends it a degree of rugged charm.
When Hoffman and Sells bought the house for $1.8 million in June, paying $1 million less than its previous owners paid to Wrights granddaughters, we thought we had hit a home run, Sells said.
The city gave them permission to split the lot, and their plan was to build two luxury homes and make a killing.
The dirt alone, in the heart of the Arcadia neighborhood and in the shadows of Phoenixs picturesque Camelback Mountain, would be worth $1.2 (million) to $1.4 million, Sells said.
They felt that the permission to divide the lot implied permission to demolish the house that Wright had built for his son and daughter-in-law, David and Gladys and indeed, they briefly had a demolition permit.
It was, Sells went on, a deal that seemed almost too good to be true.
And, in many ways, it was.
Just as Sells and Hoffman prepared to close on the deal, preservationists involved in protecting Wrights legacy reached out to the city, asking that the house be considered for landmark status. Sells, 50, a technology entrepreneur, said he had no idea of its significance or of the difference between Frank Lloyd Wright and the Wright Brothers.
I grew up in Idaho, rodeoing, he said. We had no money.
Hoffman and Sells, principals of a company called 8081 Meridian, named after the high school they both attended, as well as their graduation years 1980 for Sells and 1981 for Hoffman got their demolition permit in August.
By the end of September, though, under pressure from preservationists and perhaps realizing the owners were serious about razing the property, the city invalidated the permit.
Sells is not your stereotypical developer. He fancies off-road racing, wears a hoop earring on his left ear and has tattoos on his arms and neck, among them the name of his mother, who died when he was young, and the words Triple Trouble.
Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix has been working closely to help Sells find a buyer; they speak by phone often. The city wants the house saved. If a buyer is not found by the time the council gathers next month to consider giving the house landmark status, Sells plans to be at the hearing, making his case.
Does the house deserve landmark status? Yes. This place needs to be preserved, he said. But when three Wright granddaughters sell it for $2.8 million, for me to carry the cross for Frank Lloyd Wright, thats not fair.
In Arizona, where ownership rights are strong, granting a property landmark status shields it from development or destruction for only three years anyway. So, if the council approves the request, something else might happen, Sells said.
Ill move in, invite everybody to come in and take their pictures, and Im going to wait three years, he said, interlacing his fingers behind his neck as he slouched on the orange cushions of the master bedrooms seating area.
Then, he went on, Im going to knock it down to recoup my losses.