Lofty Living (Originally Published in New Dreamhomes and Condominiums Magazine)

He’s young, hip, running a raw food and vegetarian restaurant downtown and owns a couple of properties for rental. His name is Chris Italiano and where he calls home is a two-storey loft at 1029 King Street West.

“It’s a nice open space, that’s what the advantages are,” Italiano says. “It has bright high ceilings, big windows. It’s an open space you can do pretty much what you want to it.”

The loft development went up six years ago. Italiano is the original owner.

The loft has a brick interior, stainless steel appliances and big windows. The floors are hard-wood and there are tiles in the washrooms and downstairs in the kitchen. One level has the kitchen; the washroom is on the same floor, plus an open space. It goes upstairs with a bedroom and a big walk-in closet with a balcony railing to look over.

Italiano’s sister Jennifer is a new mom and took over the space for awhile. Chris Italiano will be moving back soon. He first bought the condo six years ago because he needed a change from renting.

“I was tired of renting and it was my birthday,” Italiano says. “I was tired of paying people $1400 to live and it was just cool living and it was trendy at the time. It still is.”

Tony Griffin a real estate agent for Re/Max has many satisfied customers in loft/condo homes. He would call the kind of space Italiano is living in as the “warm and fuzzy” style of a loft/condo, out of two types.

“When you’re talking in terms of lofts…there are two distinct styles, but they can take any of a variety of forms,” Griffin says. “One of them is concrete. The merchandise building is an excellent example of that. Ceilings of 12 feet and the walls and ceiling left bare. As compared to the Candy Factory, that has exposed brick and large beams that dot the ceiling and support structures. [They have] wood floors and large impressive beams that have been (built) years and years ago.”

Something like the Candy Factory and Italiano’s loft is called “warm and fuzzy.” The style of the merchandise building and those loft/condos that have concrete is called “cool.”

Griffin says the condo market itself is really a big part of the housing market. The loft is a boutique area of that kind of market.

“We’ll call it the loft craze,” Griffin says. “That’s the way it evolved in the mid to late 90’s and early part of the new century. It really started with a focus on one of the most popular projects in the downtown area and that was the Candy Factory. That was kicked off, about 1994 when Harry Stinson kicked off the Candy Factory project. It was like a pent-up demand. People who had heard about lofts were just dying to find out what it was all about.”

Griffin says lofts have been built in Toronto since the 1980’s, but they were a secret.

“The Candy Factory spawned these other developments and possibly the largest in Canada is the merchandise building,” Griffin says. “[It’s] located on Dalhousie and Jarvis and Dundas area. It’s an enormous project. The merchandise building has something in the order of 600 residents varying in size from about 700 square feet to well over 2000.”

Griffin says the loft/condo market is a strong part of the housing market, but a small part.

“It will probably continue to be very popular in new construction projects,” Griffin says. “Not the conversion of an existing building, but new construction of loft-style condominiums.”

Italiano says his six-year-old loft/condo at King and Strachan is a good home to have for now. He says when he thinks of a “true” loft, he thinks of the one in “Flash Dance,” the movie.

“My dream would be to have the floor of a warehouse.”

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