ESG architects believes the term "loft" is overused. Instead of the unique housing type that grew out of old industrial buildings, many developers are churning out poor imitations in brand-new structures. Grand award winner 9th Street Lofts, however, is an innovative, yet closer, interpretation of the loft space concept, says architect David Graham.

Geared toward young professionals and empty-nesters, the 48 flats are located in an industrial warehouse that had wonderful raw features such as concrete construction, large industrial sashes, and large expanses of glass. The architects saw these features as an opportunity to show the juxtaposition between new and old in a pre-existing industrial building.

In typical loft style, each unit has few stationary walls, so the natural light filters through the large glass openings that penetrate the space. Interior wall cutouts, movable wall units, and pocket doors also allow light sharing throughout the interior.

As part of their effort to develop cool living units that also are affordable, the architects use a combination of custom and IKEA storage systems that demonstrate the flexibility and usability of loft space. The systems are not inexpensive, says Graham, but the price is relatively affordable because of their simplicity. That flexibility extends to lighting as well: Instead of a preselected chandelier over the dining area, a conduit box allows buyers to plug in whatever fixture they like.

The architects added a sixth floor to the original five-story building. The new level consists not only of a community room and an open deck for residents to use but also two glass-enclosed penthouse units with private decks.

Category: Lofts; Entrant/Land Planner/Interior Designer: The Lander Group, Minneapolis; Builder: Kraus-Anderson, Minneapolis; Developer: Lander Sherman Urban Development, Minneapolis; Architect: ESG, Minneapolis; Landscape Architect: Close Landscape Architecture, St. Paul, Minn.

Into the Closet

Storage space often is an afterthought in multifamily housing--but not at 9th Street Lofts. The architects brought in a combination of semi-custom and standard systems to add functionality to the project. Elements such as movable wall units on casters and a built-in storage system under the staircase maximize space and add architectural interest. It works well for those who want customizable storage but don't want to pay too much for it.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Anderson, IN, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN.