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David & Gladys Wright House sold

6:49 AM, Dec 21, 2012   |    comments
The David & Gladys Wright House. (Photo by Derrick Bostrom, taken from Flickr)
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Philip Haldiman, The Arizona Republic

PHOENIX -- A Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house in east Phoenix has been sold to a buyer who intends to guarantee its preservation through a new nonprofit, ending months of controversy involving the property.

The David and Gladys Wright House has been bought by an anonymous buyer, officials say. The deal closed Thursday.

It sold for about $2.38 million, said real-estate agent Robert Joffe, who brokered the deal with Bob Hassett, the buyer's agent.

"I think we're going to make music this time," Joffe said.

This is at least the third buyer who has taken a serious interest in the house. Joffe said at least one previous potential buyer entered into escrow to buy the house with intentions to preserve it, but for undisclosed reasons, the deal fell out of escrow Nov. 12. Another potential buyer backed out early this month.

Janet Halstead, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, said the organization identified the new owner months ago, with more serious conversations evolving in recent weeks.

She said an Arizona non-profit organization will be formed that will be responsible for the restoration, maintenance and operation of the house.

The new owner will request that the Phoenix City Council grant landmark designation to the house, which will not be used as a residence, Halstead said.

After restoration, the goal is to use the house for educational purposes, she said.

"We will be working with the owner on an ongoing basis - helping to set up the nonprofit, offering technical resources and restoration guidance," Halstead said.

Joffe said that when a demolition permit was removed from the property in October and the previous potential buyer dropped out this month, the new owner's interest increased.

The house, located in the Arcadia neighborhood, went under contract Dec. 9 and closed Thursday. The seller was 8081 Meridian. The company's principals, Steve Sells and John Hoffman, initially intended to split the lot and redevelop the property with new structures. They purchased the house for $1.8 million earlier this year.

"This is really a sweetheart of a person - someone who's not interested in making money," Joffe said of the buyer, whose identity was not disclosed. The buyer wants to remain anonymous, he said.

Mayor Greg Stanton said Christmas came early this year for preservationists and fans of great architecture.

"This is great news," he said. "I know it's in good hands with the conservancy."

Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who represents the area where the house is located, said a key component in the purchase will be a preservation plan of at least 30 years for the house, which will include getting it listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on historical designation of the house on Jan. 16, which would protect it from demolition for three years.

Experts say the house is one of Wright's most personal works, which included his input on every aspect, from its design and completion, down to the home's furnishings and interior finishes.

Wright built the home for his son David, who died in 1997, and David's wife, Gladys, who lived there until her death in 2008.

The 60-year-old house is a complete circle around a central courtyard with a broad, curved ramp leading up to the living quarters, built entirely on raised concrete piers.

Many experts consider the house, with its spiral form, a precursor to Wright's design of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, one of his most famous works.

The Arizona Republic

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