For sale to the highest bidder: a 49,200-square-foot blank slate
Mark Wattles doesn't have any regrets.
The founder of the Hollywood Video mega-chain — which he launched in the 1980s with a single store in Portland — is closing the book on a project he started more than 20 years ago: a 49,200-square-foot home wedged between West Linn and Wilsonville on the banks of the Willamette River.
The house that was intended to be Wattles' family home never became what he enivisioned, so when the 31.8-acre property and its mammath unfinished house goes on the auction block on June 14, there won't be any tears from Wattles.
"Bittersweet isn't the word I'd use to describe it," Wattles told The Review. "At this point, it's just like any other business transaction."
It is not, however, just like any other property.
Wattles' original plans envisioned a sprawling, tri-level estate, with expansive views of the Willamette from nearly every room. Massive living areas dominate the home, with plenty of space for an indoor racquetball/squash court, indoor basketball court (which can be modified to fit a swimming pool or tennis court), an elevator serving all levels and a sprawling master suite with a 1,200-square-foot closet and private theater.
Wattles also planned for two lower-level "automotive galleries" with room for up to 20 vehicles each, in addition to an eight-car garage at the main entry level.
And because the house was permitted before current land-use regulations were put in place, it sits on acreage that offers 270-degree views of the river that probably could not be reproduced today.
"You've got this spectacular piece of property, what I think it's the most spectacular river property in Oregon, and if you found this property and wanted to build a home there today you couldn't," Wattles said. "But you can with my permit."
Change of plans
The story begins in the spring of 1996, when Wattles received permits from Clackamas County to build on the prized piece of land along the Willamette. At the time, he had more than 150 Hollywood Video stores and plans to keep expanding the chain.
The property was originally zoned for farm use — it still has an agricultural tax abatement, with more than five acres of planted blueberries — but Wattles fought and won a lengthy and controversial legal battle to earn the right to build a home there.
After an initial build-out of the home's structure, though, construction halted as Wattles' business plans faltered and he moved his family out of Oregon, and the property remained in limbo for nearly 20 years.
According to historical Google Earth images and videos posted by trespassers on YouTube, the house fell into a dilapidated state, covered by blue tarps that deteriorated to tatters and graffiti that lined some of the walls. But today, those tarps have been replaced with Tyvek house wrap, and the landscape surrounding the house has been cleaned up in preparation for the sale.
"(Completing that home) would have been really nice. But then I look at the other things I've done in the past 20 years, and (my life) has been really nice," Wattles told The Review. "I don't really have any misgivings or bad feelings."
Wattles said he's thought about selling the house for a number of years, but the 2008 housing crash discouraged him from entering the market when he knew he'd probably take a loss. With Portland's housing market leveling out over the past several years, Wattles reached out to Terry Sprague and Kendra Ratcliff of Luxe Platinum Properties to weigh his options.
"I'm in the fortunate position of not owing any debt on the property, so I was able to pick the time to sell the house. Obviously, the past 10 years have been a little rough for high-end home sales. Portland is a little slower to recover than some other markets, but I'd say it's fully recovered now," Wattles said. "People with means are spending money again, so the time is right for selling a project like this."
Ready for sale
Moving forward, Sprague and Ratcliff have worked with Florida-based Platinum Luxury Auctions to sell the home. Next month's sale will be a no-reserve auction, meaning there is no minimum bid and the property will be sold regardless of price.
The Clackmas County Assessors Office values the property at $6.6 million.
"We've had about three dozen inquiries on the home, but you never know how many are really serious until about one to two days before auction," said Trayor Lesnock, president of Platinum Luxury Auctions. "Mr. Wattles felt that auction was the best option because it would attract a wide audience of buyers from all over the country."
When considering a potential sale, Wattles said he decided to leave the home unfinished in order to provide a potential buyer with the opportunity to customize the finish on the home in any style they want. According to Wattles, the building permit for the home is current and active, thanks to upkeep and inspection by Tom Avgerakis of Avgerakis Design & Building.
Regardless of what happens to the home, though, a new owner will still enjoy more than 2,700 feet of Willamette River shoreline — shoreline that Wattles once tried to alter by placing large boulders in the river to divert the flow.
Considering the history of the home and the current land-use laws surrounding the property, he said, subdivision of the property seems unlikely, although not entirely impossible in the future.
Serious buyers are required to pre-register for the live auction, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. on the property. For more information, go to tinyurl.com/WattlesHouse.