TALK ABOUT UNCHARTED TERRITORY. These 40 live/work lofts are the first new for-sale residential units to be built in Santa Ana's historic downtown in more than 30 years. That meant no comps and an unknown market, two components that would make any developer hesitant. Top-notch design and affordable prices ($328,990 to $537,990) combined to make the project a success.

Nestor + Gaffney Architecture went with a three-story urban-loft approach that provides commercial space for small design firms and artists on the street level with contemporary living units above. A typical building module includes two two-story townhomes and two third-floor penthouses, all with wide-open plans that include exposed duct-work and concrete floors. Exteriors take on the more industrial quality of Santa Ana Artists Village, an eight-block neighborhood of former urban blight that's been transformed into a vibrant downtown community.

Since the project opened in February 2003, sales have clipped along rapidly, but it's those all-important resale numbers that really tell the story. Appreciation for these nifty lofts increased by more than 100 percent in just one year. Not bad for a risky urban-infill endeavor.

Photos By Eric Figge Photography

Award: Grand award for best live/work project; Builder/Developer: The Olson Co., Seal Beach, Calif.; Architect/Land planner: Nestor + Gaffney Architecture, Santa Ana, Calif.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.