There is a big debate brewing in Arcadia on one question: Do the current owners of a famous Frank Lloyd Wright home have the right to demolish it?
The home is in disrepair. Parts of its exterior wall are crumbling. There are warped wood ceilings from water damage and cracked countertops. The house that sits on 5212 E. Exeter Blvd. near Camelback Mountain might seem like so many other neglected, empty homes. But it isn't just any neglected house. It is a Frank Lloyd Wright home.
"Some architects call this, arguably, one of Frank Lloyd Wright's 20 most influential designs," said Dan Mitchell, a local realtor who started a Facebook page to preserve the home.
However, it's ultimately up to the current owners to decide what to do with it. The home has sat empty since at least 2008. It was designed and built between 1950 and 1952 for the famous architect's son. Two local developers purchased the property back in June for $1.8 million. There were plans to split the property and build two larger homes on the land. But the developers underestimated the loyalty of Wright's fans.
"This is really a beautiful building. It is the best building in Phoenix by the best American architect ever," said Will Novak, who is part of a group of fans known as Wright Watchers.
They plan on closely monitoring the property in order to prevent construction crews from tearing down the home.
"Phoenix is never going to have 300-year-old buildings if we knock them down when they are 50 or 60," Novak said.
CBS 5 News was able to get an exclusive look inside the house with the current owners, John Hoffman and Steven Sells. They run 8081 Meridian LLC, a two-person company that builds custom homes in the Valley.
Sells said he did not realize the importance of the home when his company bought it in June, and might not have purchased the property if he realized, at first, its full significance.
"It's safe to say that it was ignorance on my part," Sells said.
However, Sells said he understands how important the property is to many in this community, and that's why he agreed to hold off from doing anything to it for at least 30 days.
"[I'm hoping] we can, in fact, find that white knight or somebody with deeper pockets than me, to come in and maybe look at it as a restoration project," he said.
But Sells said he is a big proponent of property rights, and if an agreement is not made, he will not wait forever and simply hold onto the property.
"I certainly would want to see it preserved, but I can't sit on the sidelines for three years and then [Phoenix city officials] finally say, 'OK, we know we're wrong. We know we can't take your property.' Because that would really hurt us financially and put us in a sincere hardship," he explained.
Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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