PHOENIX, Ariz. (CBS) -- In Phoenix, there's a showdown over the last house to be designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright, one of America's premier architects.
On Wednesday, city officials gave a little more time to preservationists who want to save it.
It might almost go unnoticed, the circular, cinder block structure; overgrown, uninhabited in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Phoenix except for the controversy. Developer Steve Sells says, "We thought we got a pretty good deal on a piece of property nobody wanted." Preservationist Scott Jarson says, "This house is truly priceless."
Kimberly Lloyd Wright says, "It's a nightmare, it's very heartbreaking."
The graceful, gray house was designed and built by America's foremost architect, Frank Lloyd Wright for his son David and wife Gladys in 1952. Coiled like a desert serpent, this 2,500 square foot house foreshadowed the spiral grandeur of Wright's Guggenheim Museum built in New York seven years later.
Jarson says, "A lot of Mr. Wright's thinking is that went on at the time of that museum is expressed in this home. It is widely considered by Wright scholars around the world to be in the top ten of Wright's designs."
Kimberly Lloyd Wright and Ann Lloyd Wright Levy are the granddaughters of David and Gladys, great granddaughters of Frank Lloyd Wright. As children, they spent summers at the house. Levy says, "It's a really fun house to you know run and play. We'd run up and down the ramp."
Unable to afford the upkeep, they sold the house to a buyer who promised to preserve it, who then promptly put it back on the market.
When John Hoffman and his partner Steve Sells bought the house for $1.8-million in June they saw a quirky old house in disrepair on a precious parcel of land. Sells says he's being portrayed as a bad guy saying, "Absolutely I am. I'm sitting here a wolf in sheep's clothing I guess."
They got city approval to subdivide the two acres to build two big, new houses. Sells says, "It was never a secret on what our intention was." The reporter asks, "You were actually going to tear down a Frank Lloyd Wright house?" Sells replies, "That was certainly the intention early on."
That's what ignited the controversy. When the partners got a demolition permit, outraged preservationists got busy. They got thousands of signatures on petitions to stop the demolition and this week got the city planning commission to recommend the house be designated a historic landmark.
Kimberly says, "Never in my wildest dreams would i think someone would tear down a Frank Lloyd Wright home." The reporter asks, "Do you think they're being greedy?" She replies, "Yes, I do. I think they're only in it for the money."
Sells and Hoffman says they're businessmen needing to turn a profit. They can't afford to restore this gem, which they say would cost about $2 million and can't afford to have it sit around as some historic museum piece. Sells says, "This is not a get rich. This is a get out, get compensated, and move on with my simple quiet life and john's simple quiet life."