A living space in Butler Street lofts. Photo by Alexandra Ribar.

Exposed wood beams. Weathered brick walls. Open floor plans. This isn’t an unfinished building — call it warehouse chic.

Pittsburgh — with its abundance of warehouse spaces, old schools and manufacturing buildings — has captured the imagination of developers like Todd Palcic, who’s behind the First Avenue Lofts that opened Downtown this past summer. Palcic says he tries to retain original architectural details in his projects.

“Sometimes it’s hard to track down the entire story, but it’s neat to understand an era, and include part of that in the building,” he says.

Case in point, he worked to expose a giant arched window on the second floor, original to the building.

Lofts are often characterized by a large, flexible space, sometimes without internal walls. Developers in cities across the country have long repurposed commercial buildings into lofts, making the most of a building with history, and abundant space, where new builds aren’t always practical or possible.

The abundance of colossal buildings with history in Pittsburgh means that loft living can embrace the ultimate in building reuse: An early 20th-century service building for Heinz plant employees becomes high-end riverside living; a former Uptown high school is converted to living spaces; and a storied Duquesne Brewery spot, is now a haven for artists, and those on a tight budget.

Why live in one? Some people prefer the open nature of loft design: Wide spaces offer greater flexibility in the way someone might use a living area.

There are lofts in most neighborhoods around the city core: North Side, Bloomfield, the Strip, Downtown, Lawrenceville, with some units for lease and others for sale. Here’s a sampling:

Butler St. Lofts, 212 45th St., Lawrenceville

Price: $1,350 to $2,350 monthly

Good for: Those who want to live in one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods and stay local for work — a desk membership for Beauty Shoppe, a co-working space that will soon be contained within, is $300 monthly.

Description: Architect Robert Trimble designed the building, which was built in 1912 and for years housed a Boys & Girls Club, then a charter school. The building also features a bike and exercise room, and is pet-friendly.

Style: One- and two-bedroom units, modern but with historical touches intact, and extra-high ceilings. Some of the original details of the building remain, but the space is modern, with central air, quartz countertops in the kitchen, hardwood flooring, and washers/dryers in the units.

A bedroom in Butler Street Lofts. Photo by Alexandra Ribar.
A bedroom in Butler Street Lofts. Photo by Alexandra Ribar.

2. Lando Lofts, 909 Penn Ave., Downtown

Price: $2,295 monthly for a one-bedroom, more for furnished and all-inclusive units.

Good for: Those who prefer a full-service building in the heart of the city, within walking distance of several company headquarters, as well as Point State Park and the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.

Description: 27 spaces in a 1890s building in the Penn-Liberty Historic District. Shared rooftop deck with kitchen, and sweeping views of the city. Room service available from Mark’s Grille.

Style: Exposed brick in many units, extra-large kitchens, LED track lighting, deep sinks with removable faucets, 12-foot-long quartz-topped islands. 

3. Bloomfield Lofts, 4926 Cypress St., Bloomfield

Price: $289,000 for a one-bedroom, 1 ½ bath, and $459,000 for a two-bedroom, 2 ½ bath. The building is still under construction, and a handful of units are still available.

Good for: Modern living — with parking — in a traditional Pittsburgh neighborhood. Bloomfield is known as Pittsburgh’s Little Italy and features a mix of architectural styles, and a lively, walkable business district.

Description: 18 units that went on the market this year. This former linen factory sat vacant for nearly two decades before developers broke ground in 2016. Amenities include garage parking, balconies, a common gym and outdoor space.

Style: Finished in a neutral tone with options for upgrades and choice of finishes; 15-foot ceilings, private balconies, exposed brick and hardwood floors.

Rendering of a kitchen in Bloomfield Lofts. Image courtesy of Keller Williams Realty.

4. Heinz at 950, 950 North Shore

Price: $1,080 per month for a one-bedroom, to $2,280 for a two-bedroom, one bath unit.

Good for: Runners, walkers and any other lover of the outdoors. Some units have views of the North Shore side of the Allegheny River. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail, offering superb urban walking and cycling, is just across River Avenue.

Description: 150 lofts with 56 floor plans in two buildings, which once served as a services facility for Heinz employees. The development houses a fitness center, game room, kayak and bike storage area, conference rooms and five-story courtyard with grilling stations. There’s also a climate-controlled garage. No smoking is permitted, and leave Fido behind — this is a pet-free facility.

Style: Maintains the Romanesque style of the structures built in 1930 and some original details (wainscoting, wide hallways, marble in common areas), but with industrial design in the units, including granite countertops, high ceilings, tall windows and some terrazzo flooring.

A model living area at Heinz at 950. Photo courtesy of Amore Management Co.

5. Aria, 121 7th St., Downtown

Price: Starts at $1,350 monthly for a one-bedroom unit.

Good for: Lovers of the arts of any kind. Aria is located steps away from the Benedum Center and Heinz Hall, the city’s iconic cultural venues.

Description: 40 lofts in the Cultural District that include bicycle parking, a fitness area and dry-cleaning services. Up to two pets are permitted for a fee. Surface lot and garage parking options are available through Alco Parking for a monthly fee. Additional amenities include dry cleaning, laundry, a guest apartment and complimentary breakfast.

Style: Exposed brick and timber beams from the original building. It also features granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Flooring is a mix of carpeting, wood and ceramic tile. Window coverings are included.

Living and dining area in Aria Lofts. Photo courtesy of Aria Lofts.

6. Cork Factory Apartments, 2349 Railroad St., Strip District

Kimberly Palmiero is an independent journalist and business owner. She spent 25 years working for media companies in Pennsylvania and Illinois, most of that time as an editor on news desks. She left Trib Total Media in 2016 as a managing editor. A passionate journalist, she also is board president of the nonprofit Press Club of Western Pennsylvania (westernpapresclub.org).
In 2009, she founded a small business which acquires, refurbishes and rents residential property.
She enjoys running through city neighborhoods just after dawn. She may or may not cap off runs by drinking several espressos
She lives on the North Side.