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The 8 Dreamiest Lofts In Chicago

By Rachel Cromidas in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 15, 2016 8:22PM

I have an obsession with Chicago lofts—one that dominates my web browser history and will have me walking miles out of my way up Lincoln Avenue just so I can see an old favorite. I am a sucker for high ceilings, exposed brick and concrete floors, and I love a loft building with a good history behind it—say, a former life as a pencil factory. If you're looking for a gushy love-letter to our city's most beautiful apartments, one that leaves aside practical matters like money, affordable housing and gentrification in favor of whimsy and flash, look no further.

Chicago's iconic past as a center of American manufacturing and trade in the 1900s make it a particularly good place to hunt for a loft apartment today. Chicago became one of the world's largest railroad hubs and busiest shipping ports, and all of the goods that passed through the Midwest needed to be made or stored in factories and warehouses. Today, they serve as reminders of Chicago's industrial past—and a personal reminder to me not to give up on my real estate dreams.

I've never lived in a true loft, converted from a warehouse or factory into housing. (I'm seeing more and more apartments being marketed as "soft-lofts" these days to capitalize on the trend, but they don't feel the same.) And I certainly can't afford to buy one. But a girl can dream, and dream I do. Here are eight gorgeous Chicago lofts I covet, stalk, bookmark and fantasize about making horrible financial decisions in. An asterisk denotes a loft I have toured in person.

1800 W. Grace St. via Estately

*The Lofts At 1800

The Lofts at 1800 W. Grace St. are like a first love—I never could really get over them after checking out an open house in 2013, and I keep the real estate brochure on my nightstand like a brooding teen to this day. The former site of cap and gown manufacturer E. R. Moore, the lofts were converted into fancy condos in 2010 after the factory closed shop in 2005. The stunning structure is actually two connected buildings—one 6-story building to the west that features exposed concrete units, and one 3-story building to the right with brick-and-timber beam features—with a calming front courtyard in between. The building boasts that no two units are alike thanks to its unique layout, but the real draw to me is its proximity to two train lines. Tracks for the CTA Brown Line and the Metra UP-N both run right up against the building on either side, and some units feature balconies just inches away from the rails. One bedrooms start at $284,500, and 2 bedrooms at $414,500. But like I said, a girl can dream.

Located at 1800 W. Grace. St.

1800 W. Roscoe via Redfin

*The Pencil Factory

Another of North Center's best loft buildings lies just down the block from The Lofts at 1800. The Pencil Factory, at 1800 W. Roscoe St. was—you guessed it—once a pencil factory. Now, it's a sleek brick-and-concrete loft with an open layout and poured concrete pillars and floors. Concrete, for those not in-the-know, means you'll never have to worry about listening to your upstairs neighbors roll bowling balls across the floor all night. Converted to condos in 1988, the building also has a rooftop deck and a small gym.

Located at 1800 W. Roscoe St.

The Donohue, via Redfin

The Donohue Building Lofts
These gorgeous lofts epitomize Printers Row. The Donohue has a stunning, century-old facade leftover from when it was a turn-of-the-century publishing powerhouse. It is reportedly the first factory in the city to be converted to condos (in 1979).

Located at 711-727 S. Dearborn St.

The Prairie District Lofts via Facebook

The Prairie District Lofts

The Prairie District Lofts comprise a massive, five-story brick building that was once a Kodak manufacturing facility. Many of the lofts are two- or three-story duplexes, and they share a fitness room, roof deck and landscaped atrium. They're close to the lake, McCormick Place and Soldier Field, as well as Chicago's historic Prairie Avenue District. The area is quaintly residential, but has all the benefits of being close to the Loop.

Located at 1727 S. Indiana Ave.

500 S. Clinton via Estately

*Clinton Complex Lofts

The lofts at 500 S. Clinton St. are dreamy. The entrance has a muscular, arched overhang that leads into a sleek lobby connecting two brick condo buildings, plus an interior courtyard. The units themselves are surprisingly quiet—some overlook Clinton Street; I once stayed in one overlooking the Greyhound station—but super-close to an underground CTA Blue Line Station. Unlike the common exercise rooms in many Chicago apartment buildings, the one here is actually nice, with rows of treadmills and a high ceiling that offers good air circulation.

Located at 500 S. Clinton St.

1000 West Lofts, via Modern Chicago Homes

1000 West Lofts
The Near West Side is the de facto epicenter of Chicago loft living, thanks to its past life as a manufacturing district. But out of all the brick-and-timber gems that lie west of Halsted Street, 1000 West Washington has captured my imagination the most. The building, a former Nabisco bakery from way back when the snack company was known as the National Biscuit Company (filed under Today I Learned), is close to many of the West Loop's prime restaurants. Many of its units are architecturally striking and decadent, including this wood-paneled guitarist's crib and this penthouse.
Located at 1000 W. Washington Blvd.

1872 N. Clybourn Ave via Redfin

1872 N. Clybourn Ave.

The lofts at 1872 N. Clybourn Ave. are arguably some of the most striking in town. The building's upscale feel and prime location in Lincoln Park make it way out of most buyers' reasonable budgets—but if you ever get a chance to look inside, please do. Many units have super-high ceilings and stunning views of the North Side, and the building is technically zoned as a live/work space, in case running an office out of your home sounds feasible. The building's history is a mystery to me, so comment if you know something.

via Forgotten Chicago

*The Brewery Lofts

Lakeview isn't particularly known for factories converted into loft condos, but the neighborhood has several gems among its townhouses and three-flats. The Brewery Lofts—converted from a former brewery—tower over Lakewood Avenue and stretch out over the better part of a block. The massive apartment complex was built in 1888 and is in the National Registry of Historic Places, according to apartment reps. The inner courtyard was once a stable for the Best Brewing Company's horses. It's not too common to find true lofts, exposed brick, beams and all, for rent in Chicago, but The Brewery Lofts are all rentals (two-bedrooms are starting at just over $1,700 a month on The main building is six stories, and I had the pleasure of checking out the duplex penthouse, whose entire second floor was dedicated to a giant master bedroom and balcony with exquisite views of the city.

Located at 1301 West Fletcher St.

via Redfin

*Clocktower Lofts
If Bucktown is the dream neighborhood of my bougie-est fantasies, then the Clocktower Lofts is where I'd want to come home after spending a day jogging on The 606 and browsing Myopic Books with a Wormhole coffee in hand. This bricks-and-timber loft on tony Wabansia Avenue is in an actual clocktower, and the penthouse unit has a giant, street-facing window clock. The building was formerly a Kling Brothers clothing manufacturer, renovated into lofts in 1996.
Located at 2300 W. Wabansia Ave.