Buyers driven to find the right loft
Several new loft developments have automotive roots, including one contender for the best-named project – Locomobile Lofts. For those of you not up on your car history, the Locomobile was an actual vehicle and quite a famous one circa 1908. That was the year that a stock Locomobile won the Vanderbilt Cup and made history as the first American car to win an international race.
Locomobile Lofts is located in the company’s former showroom and offices, at 2000 S. Michigan. The units have one to three bedrooms and one to 2.5 baths, priced from the $180s. Another project, at the opposite end of “Motor Row,” is the conversion of the old Ford Motor Co. building, at 1442 S. Michigan, the oldest structure in the historic district. Behind the landmark 1905 faÃ§ade of brick and terra cotta are a landscaped private courtyard and 14 loft condos priced from the $390s.
North Beach Lofts, a Rogers Park conversion at 1225 W. Morse, has a humbler automotive history, though it may be more visible in some units. The building was owned by the Duxler Tire Co., and developer Bill Markle is leaving the original concrete ramps intact where possible, so some buyers will have partially sloping ceilings and exposed concrete joists in their lofts.
The 2005 award for most punning lofts goes to David Wallach of W Developments. Trying to capitalize on the Greek Town location of his new loft building at 775 W. Jackson, Wallach took a friend’s suggestion and christened the 70-unit project Odyssey Lofts. But the fun did not stop there. In a new twist on a familiar marketing tool, a banner outside the building lets passing commuters know that “If you lived here, you’d be Homer by now.”
Anyone can offer quick travel times, only Odyssey Lofts promises buyers a place in world literature. The Greek theme is bolstered by new facilities for the Hellenic Museum, which is being built next door and will share parking with Odyssey Lofts. The heavy timber loft condos have one to three bedrooms and one to 2.5 baths, priced from the $200s to the $530s. Features include exposed brick and timber beams, 13.5-foot ceilings on original floors, hardwood floors, gas fireplaces, granite counters and marble and granite master baths.
Window shopping for West Loop lofts
Lots of builders take development names from loft buildings’ former uses, but New West Realty instead borrowed a marketing method from W. A. Wieboldt and Company’s Midwest store, which it is converting into Paramount Lofts, 130 S. Ashland. In early December, just in time for Christmas, New West opened a “window model” as part of the avant-garde sales center. Passersby can gaze through 11 oversized street-level windows to get a feel for the loft interiors.
“We came up with the idea to have a window model partly because the building previously was Wieboldt’s Department Store and partly because we wanted home shoppers to be able to view the model at all hours of the day,” said development team member Gaye Engel. “Buyers can see the rooms and décor through the glass or they can come in and see the model during sales center hours.”
The window model floor plan is similar to the standard 01 plan, a two-bedroom, two-bath corner residence. Units at Paramount have one to two-plus bedrooms and one or two baths, priced from the $210s to the $370s. The units have ceiling heights up to 14 feet, hardwood floors, gas fireplaces, balconies, GE appliances, Moen fixtures and exposed ductwork.
Location, location, location, location
As lofts have become more popular and the supply in central neighborhoods has dwindled, developers increasingly have turned to new areas for loft conversions. Tandem Developers introduced the product type to Bridgeport with its now sold-out Union Lofts, the neighborhood’s first residential lofts as far as we know.
A number of other loft developments have followed on the South Side. At press time, the Habitat Company was about 60 percent sold at McKinley Park Lofts, a 163-unit development at 2323 W. Pershing in the eponymous Southwest Side neighborhood, priced from the $190s. Enterprise Realty is selling East 47th Street Lofts, at 1040 E. 47th, an eight-unit development of one- and two-bedroom lofts priced from the $160s to the $230s. And Roman Realty at press time was nearly sold out at Atrium Lofts, 42 units at 4101 S. Michigan priced in the $200s.
Pilsen is no stranger to lofts, especially the variety that caters to artists, but redevelopment near the University of Illinois at Chicago campus has encouraged a couple of new developments between the neighborhood and UIC. The Enterprise Companies’ conversion of the old South Water Market includes 824 lofts priced from the $200s at University Commons, 1000 W. 15th; and New West Realty is selling 231 loft condos at University Station, 1500 S. Blue Island, priced from the $150s.
The loft project farthest north? Developer Bill Markle is converting a building at 1225 W. Morse, in Rogers Park, into North Beach Lofts, 43 two-bedroom units priced from the $240s.
Work where you live
Artists, who need copious space to work and don’t often have much left for digs, pioneered the earliest lofts, which doubled as studios and apartments. The live-work concept became less common as lofts became more refined, though a number of projects in recent years have marketed themselves as live-work – mostly courting accountants, architects and other professionals (not many artists can afford today’s loft condo prices). Only one current project bills itself as a live-work development, 15th Street Lofts. The project at 1503 S. State has 78 units priced from the $210s to the $400s. Features include exposed timber beams and brick, 11-foot ceilings, partial-height walls, oak floors, track lighting, granite counters and balconies or terraces per plan. “These are true lofts, and they’re work-live, where people can buy them to live in or work in or both,” says Kathy Ryan, of New West Realty, exclusive sales agent for the development.
Something old, something new
More and more loft developments add floors of new construction on top of the original building. This increases the profit margin for the developer and creates a second usually more traditional product. In some cases, developers say, being able to add more floors is the only way to make a deal work. Current loft conversions with some new construction include: Sierra Lofts, Paramount Lofts, North Beach Lofts, Odyssey Lofts, the Edge, Skytech Lofts, Engravers Lofts at Bank Note Place, University Commons and University Station.
Lofty designs for new construction
So many loft buildings have been converted in neighborhoods like the South Loop and West Loop, developers increasingly are designing new condo buildings with loft features. Though they can’t reproduce the ceiling heights of 11 feet or more found in many true lofts, they can generally hit the 10-foot mark. These buildings also tend to have exposed ductwork, open floor plans, partial-height walls, oversized windows and hardwood floors. Some of the “new lofts” on the market include: Lakeside Lofts, 2025 S. Indiana; Lofthaus, 321 S. Sangamon; Bridgeport Station Lofts, 941 W. 35th; Museum Park Lofts, 1259 S. Indiana; Loftworks on Michigan, 1575 S. Michigan; and Ashton Lofts, 1610 W. Fullerton.