Google executive halts his plan to raze historic Portland house

PORTLAND, Ore., June 25 Wed Jun 25, 2014 6:24pm EDT

PORTLAND, Ore., June 25 (Reuters) - Google executive Kevin Rose has halted his plans to demolish a historic home in downtown Portland following pressure from his new neighbors who sought to save it. He now plans to sell to a long-time resident instead, both sides said.

Rose and his wife purchased the 1892 home in Portland's upscale Willamette Heights area in February for $1.3 million and planned to raze it and build a dream home in the neighborhood on the edge of a park with more than 80 miles (130 km) of trails.

Permits for demolishing the house, building a new home and taking the property off the city's landmark inventory list were approved by the city earlier this month as the building was not on the National Historic Registry or the Portland Historic Registry.

But a swarm of complaints rushed in from neighbors seeking to save the house, including an online petition of more than 3,000 signatures, prompting the Google Ventures partner to reconsider.

"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," Rose said in a statement posted on Tuesday to the online petition. He also confirmed the decision in a Twitter post.

"We love so much about your beautiful city, and your strong community bond is high up on that list," Rose said. "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."

The couple, looking to raise a family in Portland, now plan to sell the house to long-time neighborhood residents Tom and Jennifer Saunders, who plan to restore and maintain the home.

Will Aitchison, a Portland attorney and unofficial spokesman for the neighborhood, said the Saunders were purchasing the home for $1.375 million. He said the goal was to make the Roses whole and that residents were pleased with the outcome.

"That is the nature, I think, of Portland," Aitchison said. "I think the neighbors viewed that statement as being very sincere and heartfelt. I think they're really, deeply appreciative."

A representative for Google Ventures, where Rose is a general partner, could not be reached for comment, and Rose could also not be directly reached. (Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Sandra Maler)

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