A loft by any other name…

When New Homes ran its comprehensive loft living feature in February, we didn’t include the Thrush Companies’ 14-story new-construction tower at 740 Fulton, scheduled to break ground in June. We actually didn’t include any new construction under the heading “loft development” because in our book, a loft is a building originally built for commercial purposes and later converted to residential use.

We did, however, include a handful of projects under the heading “new construction,” mainly developments that include the word “loft” in their name. Architect Pat FitzGerald, who knows a thing or two about lofts (probably several things more than almost anyone else in the city, New Homes included), took issue with the oversight.

“With the walls of glass, great open loft-style floor plans, and 11-foot and 18-foot-high ceilings, residents will feel as if they are living large in a loft,” FitzGerald said.

“But the views at 740 Fulton will be better because the building is planned to rise 14 stories high – six to eight stories higher than a traditional loft.”

Eleven feet is a pretty respectable ceiling height even for a traditional loft. In Chicago’s new-construction market it’s rare and indeed, loft-like. Eighteen feet, of course, is even more dramatic, and lots of converted lofts don’t make that cut.

But ceiling height does not a loft make. What else? Well, there are the open floor plans, the exposed ductwork, the hardwood floors, and did we mention that those ceilings were painted concrete?

Seven-forty Fulton certainly qualifies as loft-like, but these condos also come with stainless steel kitchen appliances and granite counters. The building has a private fitness center, a business center with high-speed Internet access and satellite TV, and a 24-hour concierge service.

Are these the creature comforts of a loft, a form of housing that started because artists were too poor to afford separate living and working spaces?

For more than a decade now, true Chicago lofts have been evolving to offer first-class finishes and amenities, a trend that started with developers like Hal Lichterman and Bruce Abrams, continued with projects like the Sexton and Union Square, and is still going strong.

Fewer true lofts are on the market now than during the flood of the mid- to late ’90s, and the dearth of convertible loft buildings is one reason builders began imitating lofts in new construction.

So is 740 W. Fulton, a loft? While we stick by our definition, we admit that as traditional lofts have become more refined (“softer”) and as new construction has borrowed lofty design features, the lines have blurred.

Buyers can check out the development at www.ThrushHomes.com (sales center at 735 W. Fulton) and come to their own conclusions.

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