The Loft Movement
Extra time might be the best feature of Laura Schulte's new home. Two years ago the young professional traded the yard work and 30-minute commute that went with her suburban Omaha home for a downtown loft, turning her daily drive into a four-block walk. She's also minutes from music venues, galleries and other attractions, showing why loft living has been a growing trend in Midwest cities such as Minneapolis, Detroit and Kansas City since the early to mid-1990s.
In both major urban centers and downtown areas of mid-size cities, developers are responding to growing demand for old buildings converted into lofts.
Detroit, for example, has about 1,000 new lofts available in the heart of the city. "Since 2001, Detroit has experienced a huge increase in downtown housing," says Michael Poris, a loft developer of the Detroit architecture firm McIntosh and Poris Associates.
Lofts and nearby businesses often develop together, revitalizing urban areas. George Birt of Downtown Developers has seen the pattern while renovating buildings in Kansas City's River Market neighborhood since 1997.
"The River Market started off 25 years ago as a couple of loft projects with little retail," he says. "Now, it's the most developed urban area in the city." Kansas City has about 1,500 loft units underway.
As in most cities, Kansas City's biggest loft buyers are empty nesters who can afford high-end spaces that typically cost $200,000 to $500,000 or more. Lower-priced units attract many young professionals, proving, as George says, that "downtowns are back on the map across the country." - By Sara Reimer
Thanks to our design team
ARCHITECT Greg Wattier, AIA, GE Wattier Architecture, Inc., Des Moines, Iowa (515/243-0074).
BUILDER/CONTRACTOR/DEVELOPER Steve and Tom Howard, ST Investments, Des Moines, Iowa.
INTERIOR DESIGN Carol Schalla, Senior Home Editor, Midwest Living Magazine; Cathy Kramer, CK Designs (515/314-7335).
PROJECT DIRECTOR Brett Wilson, Editorial Projects Manager, Meredith Publishing Group.