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Live/Work- Not Just For Artists

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There are tens of millions of Amercians estimated to work at home in some capacity. The home is clearly a residence, and may or may not contain a dedicated workspace, typically in the form of an office or workshop. But what about small business or shop owners, can they work at home too? It was common in the past, and is catching on in urban redevelopment projects countrywide.
Wouldnit it be fantastic to live above your business just like shop owners of yesteryear? The apartment above the mom-and-pop store, or the country lawyer whose cottage is behind his office are time-honored built forms in the traditional American town and city, including Buffalo. They are both forms of ilive/work.i Todayis live/work projects typically involve renovation of existing buildings. Artists began the current live/work phenomenon, as they require a kind of affordable space that can (almost) only be found in older industrial buildings. But live/work has expanded beyond just artists and renovation projects. It is increasingly new construction that can play a significant role in revitalizing communities.


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Developers are now building structures intended as both a residence and a place of business. Build Magazine showcased the trend during the 2001 International Builders’ Show in Atlanta. The LIVE/WORK/2001 consortium built three new residences to blend very differently-functioning types of businesses into uniquely livable and contemporary designs, called the “Lifespan,” the “Loft” and the “Livabove.” With the goal in mind of incorporating classic forms of downtown architecture with state-of-the-art floor plans, the homes ranged from an inexpensive loft with exposed structural materials to walk-up storefronts with bi-level work environments with cleverly arranged living quarters. The three styles of units were built on an infill site near downtown Atlanta for convention attendees to tour and later sold to individual buyers.
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There is a strong case to be had for having oneis residence and business under one roof with a single mortgage. It could be appealing to a wide range of business such as boutiques, shops, cafes, medical offices, childcare, salons, galleries, repair or other services with frequent customer trade. One of the more promising designs is a storefront townhouse where the ground floor is devoted to business use and there are one or two floors of owner-occupied residential space above. For infill sites along Buffalois many commercial corridors, there could be no place like home.
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Written by David Steele

David Steele

Architect ( a real one, not just the armchair type), author of "Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land" ( www.blurb.com ), lover of great spaces, hater of sprawl and waste,
advocate for a better way of doing things.

View All Articles by David Steele
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