I'm working on a live/work project and I'd like to get some feedback about the state of live/work housing in this town. When you think of live/work, what comes to mind? Is this just a yuppie real estate buzz phrase, or is there really something to this housing concept? What live/work spaces are available for renters? - or are they all condos?

What kind of live/work would you like to live in?

I really look forward to hearing anything on this topic.

Mark
Baker Architecture + Design

Tags: apartments, artist, housing, live, lofts, studios, work

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I'm guessing that as an architect, you already have a good handle on the current live/work projects in town, including the ones at Richmond in Nob Hill and on Silver downtown.

Mixed Use facilities are one thing, but Live/Work lofts have a much tighter market. It's not often that a person's office and residence can occupy the same space. Generally this works best for independent enterprises - such as art studios - or service-oriented contract jobs - such as real estate or insurance agents - where a person works as part of a larger system that he or she can plug into.

The big downside to a live/work arrangement - other than not having that separation between work and home - is that it makes it very difficult when you have other residents who don't work there, or other workers who don't live there. The intersection of these two spheres can cause friction. Just imagine someone trying to sleep in while you conduct a teleconference, or a coworker who can't really come to the office because you're sick upstairs.

The concept makes a lot of sense in an urban setting, and the savings from not commuting can be phenomenal, but the applications are so very limited that I wonder about the viability of more Live/Work projects in Albuquerque.
My understanding of the "buzzword" is a arrangement where the living space and work space are somewhat separate (i.e. on Central near Artichoke cafe there are some lofts designed this way). The upsides are mostly obvious, no commuting, being close to your workspace at any time and some a little less obvious like having a well defined workspace (different entrances, floors etc) make it much easier (as in more likely to pass an audit) to write off that portion of the mortgage as a business expense. The only downside that I see in this arrangement is that the stability of your business is directly tied to your living space. If the business goes under and you are forced to work elsewhere, now you are paying for a workspace you are not using, or maybe can't afford. So I suppose there is that risk involved.
As commentator noted... this isn't a new idea though, most any downtown I ever lived in had it's share of old brick/stone buildings with a storefront downstairs and living quarters upstairs...
As for my opinion.. I think it's a great approach and maybe an approach which is becoming more popular as working from home becomes more common, even for salaried employee's. The market in Albq. ?? hard to say, but a simple way to find out would be to poll the existing live/work spaces in Albq and see what the vacancy rate is.
I saw a sign the other day in my old neighborhood (fringe-international district/fringecrest) for a mixed-use/live-work project.
The developer lives in Siesta Hills and has dedicated his time and money to make his own neighborhood better (the project isn't in some far-flung area of the mesa, it's in his own front-yard). I think the architect is an ex-Predock employee. I'll post more info as I learn more about it.

I don't think the living spaces will be available for rent.
Thanks for all the great replies so far. Yes Benny, I am aware of the projects which you mentioned (as well as the 2-story units near Artichoke that Lee mentioned). These are good projects although I think they do have some vacancies. I think the model in those cases was to sell those as condos. (I know Infill Solutions had to change their strategy at Richmond in this market.) What these places all have in common is that they are new construction and the mortgage or rents are on the upper end. I can't think of a live/work building in a B or C class building with more affordable rents. (anyone?) It seems that there is more of a need here. Your point about the intersection of work and home - and the friction caused by multiple tenants varying schedules is well taken. This might be just part of the deal - i.e. something that live/workers are willing to put up with.

Our project would have about 4 units in an existing structure. 2 of the units would be laid out like a traditional 1 or 2 bedroom apartment (but with live/work zoning), the third would be a 2 bedroom with a large work room, and the fourth unit would be one large space with a kitchen and bathroom in the back. So there would be a variety of unit types and I think the rents would be comparable with the rents for traditional apartments of the same size in the the area.

The units could be used for anything allowable in "office" zoning (office, retail, massage, art studio, even a small cafe...) What do you think about the viability of this model?

Thanks,
Mark
Hey Mark -

There are people living in and around downtown working mostly in the arts who live and work in the same buildings, especially near/along the old Route 66 in Barelas. These tend to be former storefronts, small grocery type stores, or other buildings that were originally designed as workspace and have now been converted into live/work space.

I had to re-learn the concept of "lofts" when I moved to Albuquerque - my understanding before was that a loft was an open building previously used for light (or even heavy) industry that was converted into live/work space by creative types with not much in the way of economic resources and skirting the edges of zoning regulations. What I've seen billed as "lofts" in Albuquerque is typically new construction aimed at a much higher end buyer, similar to what you state above. The working artists I know are in older buildings that have space but not necessarily the best carbon footprint or appliances and tend to be located in older, less expensive neighborhoods - could these be the B or C class buildings you mention?

As a writer who plays around with fiber arts, I like your project's concept. FWIW, my preference (and I already have a house and 3 offices so I'm not a potential buyer) would be to have a small bedroom and bathroom that can be closed off, with a big room that includes a kitchen area.

All this is just to say that my concept of "live/work" space may not match what you are looking for, Mark. Though I love the flights of fancy this forum has inspired!
Courtesy of BOMA.org:
Metropolitan Base Definitions
Class A. Most prestigious buildings competing for premier office users with rents above average for the area. Buildings have high quality standard finishes, state of the art systems, exceptional accessibility and a definite market presence.

Class B. Buildings competing for a wide range of users with rents in the average range for the area. Building finishes are fair to good for the area. Building finishes are fair to good for the area and systems are adequate, but the building does not compete with Class A at the same price.

Class C. Buildings competing for tenants requiring functional space at rents below the average for the area.
funny thing about BOMA standards is that once you understand them and their relationship to building form, the entire ruthless efficiency of the suburban commercial landscape becomes apparent.
the word 'loft' has been reduced to complete meaninglessness by the real estate industry over the last decade, and that has happened everywhere, not just abq.
My dream is a reclaimed downtown building where I could live in the top floors as well as have a couple apartments. My downstairs would be a gallery, gathering, performance place. I would rent the apartments to artists that I liked.I would host events in the downstairs. The rent from the apartments would help me help other artists. I've even solved the problem of parking/no garage in my dream. Facing the alley, on the ground floor, is a couple of garage doors that we can open to move art work in & out of as well as park our cars & scoots.

I'm sure you are looking for realistic answers but my dream may turn to reality as soon as I win that lotto. thanks for indulging me
Veering wildly off-topic here...

My dream - you know, a winning-the-lottery kind of dream - has been to buy the Crossroads building next to Maloney's. I'd turn the ground floor into a bike parking area and repair shop, and the second floor into a cooperative office center for nonprofits, with cubicles and offices, and shared conference space, reception, printing, and other support.

The building has been vacant for several years because of a lack of parking, but having bike parking on the ground floor could be a perfect solution for progressive, active tenants.

I hadn't thought about it until today, but turning the top floor into a penthouse apartment would be pretty sweet, too.
It's fun to go off-topic on this idea - that's the beauty of live/work, it inspires these moments. Back in '95 my buddy Angel and I wanted to rent a warehouse space where we could make art and throw parties. We couldn't find a thing. Then we stumbled into a huge 5000 sf warehouse on Old Coors with a stay-away landlord that didn't care what we did as long as we paid the bills. At the outset of our search, we were looking for a cool brick warehouse maybe like cathyray dreams of above - something out of flashdance, you know the double height spaces with brick walls and arched windows - we ended up in a concrete block building with NO windows. We installed a kitchen and bath from Coronado Salvage. We built plywood deconstructable walls (Angel's whole bedroom was on a platform with casters now that I think about it) and we parked our cars just behind the couch. We had a blast, made cool sculptures and videos, had massive parties and built a make shift deck on the roof that overlooked the whole valley. Then we were robbed of every single posession of any value. Party over, I moved to San Francisco and Angel moved to downtown.

Now, it is 13 years later and this concept of live/work is finally here. I think the only problem is that all the designated spaces are high brow. I think we could use some affordable live/work in a decent neighborhood. I'm not a candidate to live there anymore as I've moved on to a more traditional existence - but I know that there are others carrying the torch now. I'd love to provide a place for them - but "no loud parties!" ;-)

M
I'd be interested if you build such a thing. We like the design of the Silver Lofts, but the one thing that bugs me is no green space nearby. I think in an existing building you'd have a better chance of getting mature landscaping.

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