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November 25, 2013
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Roseburg's Willis House back on the real estate market

The historic Willis House and abutting park, owned by the city of Roseburg, are back on the market after a buyer found the home would cost too much to fix.

Roseburg ophthalmologist Jon-Marc Weston said he rescinded his $215,000 offer on the property in the 700 block of Southeast Rose Street because the repairs and modifications that would have been required to get approval for occupancy of the 1874 house would have pushed the project’s price tag up to nearly $1 million.

The Roseburg City Council on Sept. 9 accepted the offer from Weston and his wife, Susan. The Roseburg couple said then they wanted to turn the house into a bed and breakfast or a duplex. Weston, who owns Weston Eye Center on Northwest Kline Street, said he also sought to purchase the downtown property to be part of the revitalization efforts.

Weston said last week the roof, front porch, windows and casements needed to be replaced, and the foundation, electrical wiring and plumbing also needed work.

“It’s unfortunate that the building was in this condition, but we had to take the time to get a full picture and then make a hard decision,” Weston said in an email Friday. “We were extremely disappointed to have to cancel our plans for what was to have been a wonderful project for downtown Roseburg.”

Mayor Larry Rich said the city still plans to try and sell the property.

“That hasn’t changed. My understanding is the offer from Dr. Weston fell through, and we are back to square one, which for us means to try and sell the property,” Rich said Friday. “This stuff happens, kind of like when people buy a house, and it doesn’t work for whatever reason.”

City Manager Lance Colley said today he believed Weston came up with the $1 million price tag to meet a “significantly higher standard,” given that the Westons planned a complete historical remodel and additional outbuildings.

“Based on the information they provided, basic improvements to meet minimum standards for occupancy were in keeping with the price of the building,” Colley said.

Roseburg-based Hawks & Co. Realtors has the listing. Realtor Victoria Hawks said the property became an active listing Oct. 28 after Weston terminated his agreement. The property is listed at $225,000.

Hawks said her office has contacted previously interested buyers, but no new offers have been made.

The city put the Willis House on the market more than a year ago because the council decided the building would be better maintained in private ownership. Councilors in July agreed to add the adjacent Willis Park to the sale in hopes of enticing a buyer.

Since the park was added to the deal, councilors agreed one-quarter of the sale will be dedicated for park land acquisition.

Weston’s bid for the property was the first to be presented to the City Council since it went on the market.

Occupy Roseburg, a group of advocates for the homeless population, had proposed using the house and park for a homeless campsite. But the suggestion never made it past the public comment section at meetings, and the council last week concluded it doesn’t want to see a camp in the city.

The Willis House was built by Judge William R. Willis. Famous guests include President Rutherford B. Hayes, his wife, Lucy, and Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, all of whom stayed in 1880.

The city acquired the house in 1924 and used it for a public library and later as City Hall. It has been vacant since July 2012, when the CCD Business Development Corp. moved to the Umpqua Business Center.

• You can reach reporter Christina George at 541-957-4202 or at cgeorge@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Nov 25, 2013 02:57PM Published Nov 27, 2013 04:15PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.