7 Alby Street
Alton, IL 62002
Monday, July 22, 2007
By Linda N. Weller
ALTON — More and more people are getting “lofty” ideas in Downtown Alton, either to construct loft-style condominiums or apartments within old buildings, or to move into them.
A selling point for four such projects that are ongoing — or slated to start this year — is convenience, location near shops and dining, “urban living experience,” albeit not in a large city, and basically having a modern new home inside an old, possibly historic shell, developers say.
Last week was a benchmark for Moonbeam Initiatives, developers of Mississippi Landing Lofts at the former headquarters of Mississippi Lime Co., 7 Alby St. The first purchaser closed on a 2,256-square-foot luxury condominium, on the southwest corner of the first floor, with a panoramic view of the Mississippi River and Clark Bridge.
That buyer is Judy Hoffman, author, history enthusiast and widow of Godfrey’s first mayor, Lars Hoffman.
Hoffman said she looked at the building months ago, went home and started thinking about how she would decorate a condo. She then made the commitment to buy it.
At age 65, she said she is leaving behind a house and its upkeep in Fairmount Addition subdivision for an entirely different way of life.
“It’s a big move,” she said. “I’m kind of excited to live Downtown, be close to everything and have a view of the river and bridge. It will be a different lifestyle. It is a fun thing to do and an exciting thing to do. People need to do different things.”
She said she and her late husband had looked at another building Downtown “about 20 years ago to do the same thing, but it wasn’t the right time then. I know he would approve of this.”
“We’re having a closing every two weeks for the next couple of months,” said Penelope Schmidt, a Moonbeam partner who also bought a loft. “Every loft has great views. There is a great demand for the views and lifestyle. Alton is catching up with the times. I think it will dramatically increase business Downtown.”
By about the end of the year, Moonbeam partners hope to begin developing the old, long-vacant YMCA building, at Third and Market streets, into 12 or 13 apartments with one to three bedrooms and about 2,000 square feet each.
“They will be more industrial, more true ‘loft-type’ apartments,” said Dan Warren, owner of Warren and Co. Contractors of Wood River, another Moonbeam partner. “They will have exposed brick and ductwork and more concrete floors in the units. It will attract a different group of people who want a little more modern, contemporary space.”
He said some of the apartments would offer a “beautiful view of Christian Hill.”
That work should take about 12 to 14 months, Warren said. People already are showing interest in renting the apartments, although work hasn’t started on them. About a decade ago, previous owners from Mexico did install new windows, but some have been vandalized over the years.
Schmidt said Moonbeam has sold “by owner” eight of the 10 condos and a 350-square-foot area on the ground level that will be used as an office. She said it was surprising how much interest was generated in the condos with little advertising. Schmidt conducted a tour of the remaining units for some real estate agents Wednesday. Prices run from about $200,000 to more than $300,000.
Condominiums range from 1,415 to 3,000 square feet, most with two bedrooms or one bedroom and bonus space.
The two floors of the building have 11,000 square feet each; there is another 14,000 square feet on the lower level that will provide enclosed parking and four commercial spaces ranging from 300 to 4,500 square feet.
A second condo is nearly completed, with closing scheduled for next week, and a third unit is far along. Each future homeowner chooses type of flooring, fixtures, location of their gas fireplace, type of cabinet and doors’ woods and finishes and other features. One man is having a sauna “steam room” installed; Hoffman selected “running man” figures for her interior door handles and upgraded to a Viking stove.
Another condo-owner chose to have both vertical and horizontal metal beams stay exposed, along with the brick walls. The owners vary in age, gender and occupation, from a utility executive to a physician to a legal secretary, among others.
The condos have washers and dryers, kitchen appliances, new energy-efficient windows and insulation, Jacuzzi tubs and a balcony. The ceilings are 12.5 feet tall on the first floor, and 12 feet high on the second, or top floor.
The ground level will have parking for residents, office space that Moonbeam already has sold but is not occupied, and plans are to also put in some small shops or coffee shop on the street level. A roof over the garage area will be spruced up with plantings in burlap bag “green packs” containing potting medium; another roof area on the northeast side will be a social area for residents who want to entertain or just sit outside.
Eventually, lights will be installed on top of the building.
The third condo slated to be finished has touches of Tuscany, with red walls and antique brick arch walkways for a couple who owns an Italian restaurant. Warren’s company is doing the renovations and creating concrete accent features.
“What I’m very proud of is all local craftsmen are doing the work,” Schmidt said.
Duane Randall is the third Moonbeam partner.
The developer obtained a 10-year property tax abatement for condominium owners. Moonbeam Initiative also is taking advantage of the city’s grant program that provides up to $7,500 per housing unit created within the Alton Riverfront Tax Increment Financing District, using TIF money. Alton’s Streetscape program also will be adding new sidewalks, light fixtures, benches and trash cans in that part of the East Broadway area soon to add to its ambience.
Warren and Randall initiated the first major loft development in recent years in the same East Broadway area, creating five luxury condos in the upper floors of the Laura Building at Market Street and East Broadway.
That 2004 project was on the top three of four floors in the building. Two of the 1,300-square-foot units will be available for lease or sale by the end of the month, he said.
Randall had traded ownership of the Wead Building across Broadway from the Laura Building, which was called the Faulstich Building for many years, for a condo in the Laura Lofts. Warren began working on the upper level of the Wead Building, then put the project on hold while he was busy with Mississippi Landing.
He said he still plans to put in a large loft or two apartments at Wead, with renovated commercial space on the first floor. In more recent years, the first floor has housed a couple of coffeehouses. He also plans to rehabilitate a building next to Wead, at 16 E. Broadway.
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