Nothing suggests a bohemian urban lifestyle quite so definitely as living in a loft apartment.
So what is a loft anyway? Lofts first became popular in cities like New York and San Francisco in the 1960s as old industrial buildings were converted into artist workspaces. Those studios later became living spaces.
In Dallas, many buildings billing themselves as lofts are actually new construction, but some are the traditional warehouse conversions. Some are for sale as condos; others are for rent as apartments.
South Side on Lamar began its life as the Sears Catalogue Merchandise Center. When it was redeveloped in the early ’90s, space was set aside for artists to use as studio and exhibition space, making it one of Dallas’ most authentic loft buildings.
In 1927, Titche-Goettinger opened a department store in downtown Dallas which in the 1970s became Joske’s. The downtown store was closed before Joske’s was bought by Dillard’s. Today, the building, now known as 1900 Elm, has been redeveloped into 129 apartments.
While most industrial buildings are built for practicality, the Wilson Building at 1623 Main St. was modeled after the Paris Opera House. Many Dallas residents remember it as the H.L Green drug store across from Neiman Marcus. But the property originally opened in 1904 as an earlier Titche-Goettinger store and was converted in 1999 to 135 lofts.
The Continental Lofts building got its name not because they offer coffee and coissants in the mornings, but because the space originally housed the Continental Gin Co. The nearly century-old space has been designated an historic landmark.
If you thought the auto industry only recently moved from Detroit, the Adam Hats building in Deep Ellum stands as evidence that Dallas has been part of the auto industry from the beginning. The building that today houses 90 lofts was built by Ford Motor Co. in 1914 as a Model T assembly plant.
For those with more literary tastes, Deep Ellum’s Farm and Ranch Lofts at 3300 Main St. was built in 1919 by Texas Farm & Ranch Publishing Co. In 1949, Farm & Ranch merged with Southern Horticulture and moved to Indiana. The property was used by the Department of Agriculture and a number of private companies and then sat vacant for a decade before its renovation into rental lofts.
Amenities vary depending on where you live. The old vault in the converted Dallas Federal Savings and Loan Building at 1505 Elm St. is now a wine cellar, and each resident gets a locking wine rack in what were safe deposit boxes, and an ornate dining room table with chairs now sits in the middle of the room.
Rooftop swimming pools, private dog parks, outdoor patios and barbecue yards are offered in a variety of configurations in many of these creative industrial conversions. And rent or buy, they’re often better buys than newer construction in nearby properties.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice Defining Homes print edition March 7, 2008