The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, April 01, 2005

No pallets or forklifts in this new 'warehouse': only lofts

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

Urban lofts evoke images of transforming old commercial space into living quarters, complete with exposed structural steel, ductwork, conduit and brick walls.

But there are tradeoffs to transforming, say, an 80-year-old old warehouse into a space for human habitation. The downside can include the potential for choosing a bad neighborhood, poor energy efficiency, inadequate ventilation and electrical service, noise issues and the need to adapt the living space to the structure.

Why bother with all those question marks, ask the builders of Metro Lofts in Royal Oak, when a brand new building can be erected, complete with a modern interior lofts that are designed with the appearance of transformed commercial space?

The Denali Development Group, the Cornerstone Building Group and building trades union workers are in the process of erecting such a modern loft building a few blocks from trendy downtown Royal Oak in the city's industrial south end. The four-story building in the first phase will have 30 lofts with 11- to 30-foot ceilings, concrete floors, living spaces ranging from 1,217 to 5,100 square-feet, patios and a rooftop garden.

"It will look like a vintage, industrial-style warehouse that you would find in industrial areas like SoHo in New York City, said Mark DeMaria, principal of the Denali Development Group. "We took a lot of the best of what we say from everywhere and really tried to incorporate it into this project."

The price tag on the lofts ranges from $300,000 to $800,000. The first of three phases will be complete this summer; the rest of the project, with a total of 140 lofts, will be complete in the fall of 2008.

Since it is a newly constructed building rather than a converted industrial building, the Metro Lofts will have heating, cooling and electrical systems designed for the space as well as high-speed Internet access and security cameras that work with the cable television system.

"It's one of the nicest condo projects to come down the pike in a while, and we've had quite a few of them," said Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison. "It's an original design. Personally, I like it. It is a good looking piece of architecture. I think Metro Lofts will be a catalyst for that area of town."

Trade union members who are unaccustomed to building residential aren't out of place at this project.

"This is really a commercial building, you're not going to find many residential finishes," said Brian Speer, project superintendent for Cornerstone. "There's a lot of exposed brick, stainless steel, and glass, which I think gives it a lot of character."

Here is a rendering of the completed loft building, which has the flavor of an old warehouse.
AN INTERIOR masonry wall which will remain exposed inside the Metro Lofts in Royal Oak is set by bricklayer Shawn Novencido.