Scottsdale Condos and Lofts
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High-end lofts are catching on in the Valley, an area known for its affordable fringe subdivisions. The urban living trend readily found in other large U.S. metropolitan areas is finally gaining popularity in downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale. Hip, industrial-looking lofts are becoming a hot investment for baby boomers and young urbanites. More than half of the 40 units at Lofts on Central Avenue, an Artisan Homes project in central Phoenix, have sold, President Eric Brown said. Developer Kenneth Losh reports similar success at Third Avenue Lofts in Scottsdale; 75 percent of the 88-unit mid-rise is sold. Developers in the Valley are building lofts from scratch, unlike their counterparts in New York, Chicago and Portland, Ore. There, lofts started out as a way to turn industrial spaces, such as old warehouses and factories, into living spaces. "I prefer a nice place to go to hang out and not have to maintain the pool or the yard. I just lock the door and I'm out," said Fred Gallow, who will move into Third Avenue Lofts in June. "These lofts have a little sense of soul to them. You see people in the elevator, you see them in the parking garage. Instead of spreading out, our neighborhood goes up." The owner of Fred Gallow Real Estate is both a loft dweller and investor. When Kristen and Adam Valente relocated to the Valley from Manhattan 2 ½ years ago, they scouted houses, condos and townhouses. "I just kept saying, 'I would want to knock down this wall, this wall, this wall.' I prefer a big, open space," Kristen said. The 30-somethings are housesitting in north Scottsdale until they move into Third Avenue Lofts in April. Adam said they'll enjoy being able to walk to restaurants and bars.
Urban dwellers say there's a whole culture associated with loft living. They want to be close to entertainment, food, drinks and sports. Downtown Phoenix often gets bashed for offering none of that. "Many of the people who say that don't spend time downtown," Brown said. There's plenty of niche restaurants to try, and it's only going to get better once the light rail opens, he said. "There's a large segment of people who like to be a part of something while it's happening and not after it's happened." Urbanites such as Eric Strafel, who lives at Lofts on Central, echo Brown. Downtown Phoenix doesn't feel like a real city now, Strafel said, but someday it will. "That's exactly why I bought it, for the prospect of things to come," Strafel said. He and his neighbors frequent a wine bar on the ground floor of Lofts on Central. Price per square foot of lofts built by Artisan has increased, from $120 per square foot in 1999 to more than $200 per square foot today, Brown said. The typical new Valley home sells for less than $90 a square foot. The developer of Third Avenue Lofts in Scottsdale said the city has the perfect setting for people who want to live the loft lifestyle. "If you look at downtown Scottsdale, that's about as close to a pedestrian area as you're going to get in Arizona. Downtown (Phoenix) is years and years away from being pedestrian," Losh said.
In Phoenix or Scottsdale, lofts start in the $200,000 range, but it's common for people to buy two or three units and combine them into one. At the base price, however, lofts are literally shells. Wide-open spaces are broken up using unconventional dividers like frosted glass panels and half walls. Upgrades such as hip light fixtures, flooring and brushed steel appliances can tack on $20,000 to $150,000, Brown said. Strafel shopped at specialty furniture shops such as Bova and Copenhagen and turned to magazines and books on loft living for ideas. Using hanging and half walls, Strafel split 1,500 square feet of open space into three areas for dining, living and working. "You have to start from scratch. Normal furniture doesn't fit in there so you have to go with very urban, modern furniture," Strafel said. He opted for a wine bar in the kitchen, installing a high top glass table with a wine cooler underneath. A raised wood floor in the living room was another upgrade. "What's different is getting up in the morning and stepping on a cold concrete floor," Strafel said, referring to the polished concrete that many buyers integrate into industrial schemes. Brown said not to be fooled by the cut-rate appearance - the poured concrete is actually more expensive than installing regular flooring. Many loft owners hire interior designers because the homes are tricky to decorate. "Grandma's dining set is not going in this place," Gallow said. "I've got a decorator, that's part of the fun. I'll get some kind of funky furniture in there and some nice art. But not too much stuff, because I like the open feeling." In Scottsdale, not all Third Avenue Loft owners buy into the extreme industrial feel, Losh said. All units have carpet and hardwood floors.
"Only 5 percent of the market wants to buy a loft," Losh said. "It's a thin market. The predominant group wants to buy a condominium with loft features, but they want the more finished elegant look." Gallow recently sold three units at Third Avenue Lofts after buying one for himself. He tried out loft living in San Diego for seven months, before purchasing a 1,200-square-foot unit for $340,000. He calls Scottsdale the "perfect place" for lofts, and at a much cheaper price than San Diego. Losh is planning more loft projects, including what he said will be the largest urban development in Tempe. The location hasn't been announced, but the development will have 850 lofts and condos starting in the $200,000 range. There are other Valley loft projects under way, particularly in downtown Phoenix. A historic high-rise has been transformed into the Orpheum Lofts. And near Bank One Ballpark, the Downtown Phoenix Lofts, which are also known as the Stadium Lofts, are attracting buyers.