By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
The dynamics of downtown Salt Lake are really changing these days. Everyone seems to be moving to the heart of the city. Well really, we are just following the trend set decades ago by New Yorkers that recently has spread across the country. One urban living style, new to Salt Lake’s downtown, is the loft.
Loft living actually originated in Paris in the mid-19th century, when the starving artist lived in his atelier or studio. The oversized paintings, which were popular at the time, required large open spaces, high ceilings and suitable natural lighting. In the early 20th century, similar structures came to the United Stated as warehouses built near New York and Boston ports. By the 1940s, some of these building were abandoned, and again artists saw their potential as living spaces.
Today, as cities seek to revitalize urban areas, government officials lure building owners and developers to adapt former commercial facilities to residential use with favorable tax treatments, zoning amendments and public investment. With the city government behind the movement, loft living is the new craze.
The Westgate Lofts, designed by Lloyd Architects, are one of several new loft projects under construction in downtown Salt Lake.
Purists would argue that true lofts are former factories or warehouses converted into residences, but many new developments are now crafted in the loft style. Terms associated with this movement are the new loft, soft loft, loft-inspired or loft-influenced. Several new loft developments are going up in downtown Salt Lake City. One in particular maintains the old spirit. It is a loft-inspired live/work Art Space development for working artists. Other Salt Lake projects are strictly residential but stay true to the old loft style.
Architecturally, a typical loft style has large open spaces, high ceilings, large windows, exposed brick and concrete with wood or concrete flooring. It has a rustic or industrial look often with exposed mechanical ductwork and conduit (electric wiring pipes). With the open space, the loft-owner can design the way he wants to live uninhibited by a permanent floor plan with walls and doors. The floor plan in a true loft is fluid and constantly changing.
Lofts generally appeal to couples with no children, singles, and students. These developments usually function like condominiums with public and exterior spaces maintained by a homeowners’ association. Besides offering a more carefree lifestyle, a loft’s urban location is an amenity in itself offering a short commute for those who work downtown and easy access to entertainment, cultural activities, restaurants and sports arenas. Some developments offer other perks such as a 24-hour concierge or a fitness area.
In terms of the influence the loft movement has on a city, the impact of more people actually living downtown results in additional grocery stores and other functional shopping in the city center, an increased tax base and more dollars kept from escaping to suburban neighborhoods and malls.
There are some drawbacks to this type of urban living. Lofts are not too family friendly, storage is often a challenge and noise abounds from close neighbors, cars and the hum of city life. Also, these homes are difficult to decorate so they often require an interior designer to ensure all the furnishings flow together in the open layout.
Whether or not a loft is right for you, be prepared to watch Salt Lake’s downtown become a bustling urban hub following the Big Apple’s lead in city living. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.