DISCLOSURE: Rose Law Group represents many Arcadia/Exeter neighbors in opposing the commercialization of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home
It appears that the iconic David and Gladys Wright house in east Phoenix won’t receive historical designation or open to the pubic anytime soon, although the owner is constructing improvements in anticipation of opening the home to commercial use.
The owner of the property, Zach Rawling, is requesting that a decision on the case be postponed until October 2015, according to an email sent to the city of Phoenix from his attorney, Paul Gilbert.
Gilbert did not respond to requests for an interview.
Since Rawling purchased the property two years ago, he has started construction on various improvements to allow him to open the house to commercial activity. He is proposing between 25,000 and 40,000 square feet of space underground to include a café with a liquor license, a book store, a museum, and space for various events. In addition, he is planning and currently landscaping for an above ground amphitheater and a garden that will be used to host weddings, parties and other concert like events.
During the last seven months, he has bought two surrounding parcels to grow his venue. He has is currently planting the garden grove that will serve to host weddings and other events. In addition, in an email to the City requesting the continuance he indicates that he will be constructing a gate that will serve as access for tourists who will park in the Camelback Church of Christ, near 52nd Street and Camelback Road, adjacent to the home.
Rawling has indicated he is making an application through Falling Water for this site to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage sites and that may allow him to attract 500,000 visitors a year. The Church, with which he is negotiating a lease, will host tourist buses and cars, as to give visitors an alternative to parking in the Arcadia neighborhoods.
On Wednesday, the Phoenix City Council is scheduled to review the house, near 52nd Street and Camelback Road, as a historic preservation landmark on the Phoenix Historic Property Register.
However, Historic Preservation Officer Michelle Dodds said an application allowing the property, which is in the Arcadia neighborhood, to be open to the public has not been filed with the city, and Rawling wants the applications to be heard by the council in tandem.
“Rather than filing a Special Permit, they are planning to file a request for a PUD (planned unit development),” Dodds said. “And continue the case to October.”
The original proposal had been simply to preserve the house as historic. With a request for a PUD the home will be proposed for commercial activity.
“Until these [additional] properties were acquired, we could not file for the entitlement application to accompany the HP-L (historic) designation,” Gilbert said in the letter.
“In the meantime, progress has been made in not only assembling these additional parcels, but also taking major interim steps in sustaining (structurally) the Wright House from further degradation and to install a gate from the adjacent Camelback Church of Christ parking lot to provide access and ensure that there will not be parking on any adjacent neighborhood streets.”
The David and Gladys Wright House has become known for its spiral plan, spiral ramps and elevated living quarters, which take advantage of breezes, making it ideal for desert living. The circular style also is showcased in the design of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, one of Wright’s most famous works. This home is under 2,000 square feet.