Artist Lofts in New York

Former work/live lofts of Donald Judd on 101 Spring Street:

Once upon a time, there were areas of New York City, such as SoHo, that were once considered undesirable. Over the last four decades, property values and demand have skyrocketed. In the 1970s, lofts were used primarily by poor and struggling artists who could not afford a separate space to work and live. Inevitably though, these properties became highly valuable and coveted.

Former work/live lofts of Donald Judd on 101 Spring Street:
Former work/live lofts of Donald Judd on 101 Spring Street:

There were growing concerns that the city’s planning commission would demolish and replace the older buildings with high-rise apartments. Real estate developers were highly interested in the SoHo area in particular, for not only their location, but because during the time, the properties could be bought for relatively cheap. When the area began to grow, with numerous boutiques and galleries opening in the area, the pressure to develop the large and cheap lofts became further appealing for developers.

In 1982, the New York state legislature established the Loft Law, which was intended to enforce landlords to bring illegal living spaces up to code and standards. Unfortunately, the new law had devastating consequences. Many landlords simply evicted their illegal tenants, while others dramatically increased rent to exorbitant rates to help cover renovation costs. Most artists would be essentially forced out by rents they could no longer afford.

Artists were then forced to look elsewhere for affordable accommodations for living and work, such as Tribeca and NoHo. Many factories in these area had shut down and the industrial spaces with high ceilings were ideal places for artists. However, it wasn’t long before artists were priced out of these areas as well by development and increasing rent prices. In fact, many current lofts in Tribeca are now considered luxury apartments, a far cry from its humbler beginnings.

Artists chose NoHo for many of the same reasons, as it was cheap to live and there were industrial buildings with large interior spaces. Many famous artists lived in the NoHo neighborhood at this time, including Jean Michel Basquait. This New York-born artist created some of his best pieces in his loft on Great Jones Street in NoHo. It was also there that he died from a heroin overdose in 1988 at the age of just 27. It is now privately owned but is available to rent.

While once inhabited by the poor, that is is no longer the case. Thanks to their desirable aesthetics of high ceilings, big windows, natural light, and industrial appearance, in addition to prime locations in the city, lofts have become the quintessential city abodes for those who can afford them. A great example are these former artists’ lofts that are along Leonard Street in the TriBeCa neighborhood. At the top-end of the market is an apartment for sale for just short of $5,00,000 that offers 1,668 square feet of open-plan living, and a bespoke interior that retains many of the original features of the building. The apartment has its own sun terrace and many other amenities available within the building. These include a pool, a screening room, a sundeck, a library, storage for bicycles and a playroom.




Los Angeles Artist Lofts

Artist lofts in Los Angeles, California, were once the dwellings of struggling artists who had taken residence in old industrial buildings as they couldn’t afford rent in conventional apartments. In downtown Los Angeles, the Arts District has historically housed struggling artists. This area was once covered in vineyards before the industrial boom at the turn of the 20th century, when many industrial buildings were built. During the 1970s, artists began to use the unused industrial buildings for housing after being priced out of more established neighborhoods such as Hollywood or Venice.

One of the most famous structures in the Arts District is the James K. Hill and Sons Pickle Works Building, which was built in 1888 and was once the residence of artist Carlton Davis. Davis used the space to create a rogue gallery called the Art Dock to display his works, and the work of many other artists between 1981 and 1985.

Today, loft spaces in downtown Los Angeles are much sought after, and developers have been scrambling to create unique apartments within any industrial and historical buildings. Lawrence Scarpa, famous architect who is best known for converting unused industrial spaces into contemporary loft apartments using unusual materials, is a modern example of this growing trend.

Fuller Lofts, a converted building dating back to 1921
Fuller Lofts, a converted building dating back to 1921

While downtown Los Angeles remains a popular area for people creatives and entrepreneurs, it is not the only designated area for loft-style buildings. One of the most popular is Little Tokyo and there are many traditional artist lofts for rent or for sale in this area. Little Tokyo is the neighboring district of Downtown, and as such, it was a natural progression of artists to spread. In fact, many people consider Little Tokyo to be part of the Arts District of Los Angeles. Residents of this area took over the disused industrial buildings and completely transformed them into stunning live and work spaces. The lower levels of the buildings were generally converted into shops and restaurants.

Picture of Little Tokyo
Picture of Little Tokyo

Other famous loft buildings include the Brewery Art Colony. Covering 16 acres and 21 former warehouses, the Brewery Art Colony is the largest live-and-work artist’s colony anywhere in the world. The warehouses are split into living lofts, work studios, galleries, and restaurants.

The complex was originally the Edison Electric Steam Power Plant and was built between 1894 and 1903. An interesting architectural feature is the chimney. It later became a Pabst Blue Brewery before being converted into artist’s lofts in 1982.

Picture of The Brewery Art Colony
Picture of The Brewery Art Colony

Another example of an artist’s loft in Los Angeles is one at ‘Biscuit Company Lofts’ on Industrial Street. Available to purchase for just under $1.8 million, this artist loft measures 1,670 square feet and has one bedroom and 2 bathrooms. The interior is finished to a luxurious standard and makes the most of the light from the large windows that are typical of artist lofts. Amenities available to residents include controlled entry with a security guard, a swimming pool, outdoor entertaining space, a two-level gym and a concierge service.

Commercial Lofts in Chicago

Loft spaces are now common in Chicago, with both commercial and residential lofts available throughout the city. Due to rezoning and pioneering real estate developers such as Owen Deutsch and his firm, Loft Development Corporation, lofts began to proliferate throughout Chicago.

Mr. Deutsch was an award-winning fashion photographer in Chicago during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. In the mid-60s, he brought the concept of lofts from New York City to Chicago when he embarked on a project to build out his first photography studio in Old Town. He purchased a historic four-story building located at 1759 N. Sedgwick, which was built in 1881, just 10 years after the historic Chicago fire. Mr. Deutsch purchased the property in 1968 and for the rehab project, he elected to employ a highly functional style that he had noticed artists and photographers utilizing in New York, the loft. Exemplified by high ceilings, exposed brick, gorgeous mezzanines and open spaces, this style was a perfect fit for the dramatic feel he wanted to achieve. After completing his studio, Mr. Deutsch recognized that the city afforded myriad opportunities for additional rehab projects, so he moonlighted as a real estate developer outside of his primary career as a photographer. In 1978, Mr. Deutsch founded Loft Development Corporation to manage his real estate ventures while he continued to focus on his photography business. Mr. Deutsch would go on to have a second career in real estate that would span half a century before selling his remaining commercial real estate assets in 2016 & 2017 to once again focus on photography, but this time with a focus on nature and birds.

Unused factories in commercially zoned areas became home to a variety of businesses, including galleries and office spaces. Today, the city offers a wide range of lofts for businesses and residents to enjoy. Lincoln Park, Fulton River District and Bucktown are among the neighborhoods that house some of the city’s most well-known lofts, while neighborhoods such as West Town and South Loop offer a variety of vintage and modern commercial lofts.

Chicago Neighborhoods with Commercial Lofts

South Loop offers a range of commercial and residential lofts. This neighborhood offers several vintage loft spaces that are suitable for commercial establishments, and South Loop has the advantage of being just minutes away from the main business district in the city. South Loop is also home to several of the city’s best attractions, including Museum Campus and the historic Motor Row District. River West is also a loft-heavy neighborhood in Chicago.

River West, a renovated warehouse district, is home to a variety of residential and commercial loft spaces. This trending neighborhood offers the benefit of combining residential spaces and commercial spaces in the same building, offering commercial businesses the opportunity to enjoy a loyal, local clientele among residents. River West also offers parking space, which is a big bonus in the city.

Printer’s Row offers the most concentrated number of lofts in the city. While many of the lofts are residential, commercial loft spaces are also available. The quiet neighborhood is just minutes away from the lakefront and several other attractions, including Grant Park, and the annual Printer’s Row Book Festival is held to honor the neighborhood’s history. Lofts in Printer’s Row have traditional brick combined with modern hardwoods for an open office space that is both comfortable and historic.

Notable Loft Spaces In Chicago

West Town is home to an iconic loft space in Chicago, The Universal Building. The Universal Building is a 150,000 -square -foot commercial space located just minutes away from the Loop, Chicago’s main business district, and the city’s major expressways, allowing for an easier commute to and from the city. The Universal Building offers a range of amenities, including easily accessible loading docks, secure on-site storage, and large, open office spaces for businesses.

West Town is a historic neighborhood that has been part of the city since 1837, when the city limits were originally established. West Town has evolved over time, but was once home to European immigrants. Today, the neighborhood is home to a diverse range of people, including younger people searching for new career opportunities within the neighborhood. The Universal Building is also located near several neighborhoods that are popular among young professionals, such as Wicker Park, offering business owners access to a talented workforce.

The historic Orleans Plaza, located in River North, is an eight story building that offers amenities such as covered parking, on-site storage and a 24-hour attendant. The building is a mix of timber, oversized windows and traditional masonry, and the office space is just minutes away from the train stations and expressway.

Like West Town, River North was included within Chicago’s original city limits. The neighborhood has evolved over time, and is now a center for artists and entrepreneurs. The neighborhood is particularly popular for restaurants and entertainment-related businesses.