Google Ventures partner Kevin Rose is quickly racking up enemies in Portland. After infuriating thousands of residents over his planned demolition of a historic home, the Digg founder offered to sell the property back to the original owners for $1.375 million in cash. A group of neighbors scrounged together the funds and accepted Rose's offer, but he's leveling the landmark house anyway.
[Will Aitchison, spokesman for the neighborhood coalition,] clearly expected the offer would allow Rose — who has also dealt with protests outside his home in San Francisco — a graceful exit from Willamette Heights. Clearly stung by the petition drive, the Roses early offered to sell the house back to the former owners, Jim Draudt and Ann Witsil, if they were given an additional $75,000, presumably to cover the cost of the designs for the new 5,900-square-foot palazzo, the "Deku Tree Retreat."
But Rose never responded to the neighbors' offer and demolition trucks now sit outside the 122-year-old home. When the contractors asked about the neighbor's buyback offer, they were given the go-ahead from Rose to begin the tear-down:
"The contractor gets on the phone with Kevin Rose," Aitchison said. "The description from the contractor was, 'He told me to proceed with the demolition.'"
The neighbor who offered to re-buy the house fears this is an ego-driven move by Rose, telling The Oregonian "I'm thinking he has his ego up a little bit and doesn't want to back off."
Previously Rose told his petitioning neighbors that "the house simply has too many open issues and repairs that need to be done" and was beyond salvage. However, preservationists dispute that claim. They point to plans for his new retreat home, claiming it proves he always intended on starting from scratch.
Neighbors are now threatening to setup roadblocks in hopes of stalling the demolition process. But Rose has clearly gotten more aggressive about crowd-control since his days trying to relate to protesters in San Francisco: The first order of business is erecting a "huge fence" around his new property to keep his neighbors away.
Darya and I are happy to announce that we've come to an agreement with a long-time resident of Willamette Heights to sell 1627 NW 32nd Ave. The new buyer's intention is not to demolish the house, but rather restore and maintain it. While this agreement isn't fully finalized, we are hoping we can wrap things up quickly.
Over the last few days we've watched as comments and emotions flared on both sides of the issue. Some folks arguing for homeowner rights, others for the preservation of old homes. We've read all of this, along with your emails, and took it all to heart.
We decided on Portland not as an investment property, or vacation spot, but as a place we hope to one day call home, a place to raise our family. We love so much about your beautiful city, and your strong community bond is high up on that list. While we could have legally put our heads down and proceeded forward, that's not the type of relationship we want with our neighbors and our new city friends.
However, Kevin Rose's wife, Darya, still thinks Portlanders are "assholes."
[Photo: James Berry]