Home projects can seem interminable, some actually are. A shell of a mansion, started 20 years ago on a secluded section of West Linn, is being auctioned Thursday, June 14 without reserve. In theory, that means someone could walk away with the deed for pennies on the dollar.
Longtime owner Mark Wattles, best known for founding Hollywood Video stores and buying Ultimate Electronics, both since liquidated, says he poured $12 million into his still-unfinished, 50,000-square-foot trophy home on 32 acres of farmland on the Willamette River near Canby.
"I don’t owe anything on it so I could have sat on it for another 20 years," Wattles said Tuesday. He paid $1.25 million for the undeveloped land in 1994. "I could have listed it locally, but it’s in my interest to auction it to have the widest national audience."
Although the land is zoned exclusively for farm use, Wattles received a building permit in 1996 to erect a mansion four times larger than the White House.
The next year, he won a highly publicized legal challenge filed by a neighbor, who was aided by land-use group 1000 Friends of Oregon and the Ball Janik law firm.
Soon after, construction stalled as he moved with his wife and five children to Las Vegas to benefit from tax advantages and escape the spotlight. "The founder of a fast-growing business isn’t the center of attention in Las Vegas as it is in Portland," he said.
Today, he owns homes in Dallas, Texas, Punta Mita, Mexico and a French country-style estate in West Linn, that’s also for sale, at $3,488,000.
Over the decades, Wattles has had the architectural plans for his riverfront property redesigned, from a traditional style house to a Northwest Craftsman with a stone facade. Yet, a new buyer could make the three-level mansion look classic or modern.
There are walls, long covered in waterproof Tyvek, but no windows or finished floors.
The only work that has been done was to maintain the wood and other building materials exposed to the elements. Twice a year, documents are submitted to Clackamas County to keep the controversial building permits active.
Platinum Luxury Auctions will handle the bidding on the property at 32020 S.W. Peach Cove Road.
Serious buyer must pre-register, according to Trayor Lesnock, president of Platinum Luxury Auctions. The live auction will take place on the riverfront property, weather permitting, starting at 7 p.m.
The land sits at a bend in the river, granting 270-degree views and 2,700 feet of water frontage. "I don’t think there is a nicer place than that point," said Wattles, 57, who added that he went "overboard" with his plans for the house, explaining that he was in his 30s at the time.
"It would have been spectacular for a family," he said, "tons of places for the kids and me to play on the river and in the house."
The whole bottom level of the massive structure was planned as a 60-car showroom, garage and mechanic space. Another large part of the footprint was devoted to a 25-foot-tall gym with a full basketball court or it could have been used as an indoor pool area. And an expansive office wing would have allowed Wattles to work at home.
He said that he doesn’t buy personal properties as investments. "I buy based on the pleasure it will give me and my family, how relaxing it could be to sit there, look at the water, mountains," he said.
Clackamas County assessed the property at $6.6 million.
What will it sell for at auction? It’s anyone guess.
Wattles is also selling his personal residence, about five miles away at 25020 S.W. Valley View Road for $3,488,000. He bought the Country French-style mansion in 2010, three years after it was built.
The stone-and-stucco facade opens to arched, floor-to-ceiling windows.
Among its 9,625 square feet of living space are formal rooms with mahogany trim, and travertine or hickory floors.
The massive living room has hand-scraped beams. There’s a barrel ceiling and fireplace in the dining room and a gold leaf-motif chandelier.
Kitchen counters are Calacatta marble. For cooking, there are dual Wolf wall ovens, a six-burner Wolf cooktop with griddle, two dishwashers, two microwaves, a Sub-Zero refrigerator, two Sub-Zero freezer drawers and a warming drawer.
There are two other refrigerators, one in the large butler’s pantry and one in the laundry/project room.
Two staircases — one grand, one spiral — lead upstairs, where there are five bedrooms and most of the 6.5 bathrooms.
As Wattles hoped to complete with the riverfront mansion, this home, which he spends about a third of his year, was designed for entertainment. Here, in the daylight basement is a wine cellar, second family room and media room.
The 16-acre, gated property in Stafford Summit Estates also includes a pool and covered patio. It will be sold in the traditional manner, not by auction. It is listed by Terry Sprague of Luxe Christie’s International Real Estate.
— Janet Eastman