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MONDAY, MAY 14, 2007
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Clyde Cantor, owner of Market Street Antiques in Athens, wants to make the second floor space above her business a loft apartment.
Daily photos by Gary Cosby Jr.
Clyde Cantor, owner of Market Street Antiques in Athens, wants to make the second floor space above her business a loft apartment.

Adding life to downtowns, one loft space at a time

While people like Decatur’s Shereé Sutton get to enjoy the experience of loft living, few other people in the Tennessee Valley do. Aside from some lofts in Huntsville, downtown buildings in smaller cities are often left empty or are used for storage or offices.

Loft lovers in Athens recently scored a major victory when Athens City Council conditionally approved lofts for downtown business owners.

The council plans to overhaul its zoning ordinance eventually to include specific zoning regulations for loft apartments.

Clyde Cantor, who owns Market Street Antiques on Athens’ downtown square was one of the people pushing for the zoning change.

Clyde Cantor, owner of Market Street Antiques in Athens, hopes to finish her loft apartment above the business.
Clyde Cantor, owner of Market Street Antiques in Athens, hopes to finish her loft apartment above the business.
She used to live in a loft in Albertville, and hopes to move in above her shop soon. But first, she must wade through complicated building code to figure out what improvements must be made to the space to make it comply with zoning laws.

The loft apartment would help her serve her customers better because she could run down and open the shop anytime someone wanted to purchase something, she said.

She recently lived in a house in Athens, and didn’t like that she had a lot of rooms she never used.

“I have this desire to use the space I have,” she said.

Plus, living in a small downtown will likely help her feel like part of the community, the way she once felt like a part of Albertville’s community.

“I want to know that man who walks by and gets an ice cream from the drugstore every morning,” she said. “I want to be involved in everyone’s lives and them in mine.”

So far, the community has been very supportive of the loft idea, she said, and several other Athens business owners are considering converting their upstairs spaces into loft apartments as well.

What’s a loft?

Artists were the first to adopt loft apartments, and found the industrial-type open spaces on top floors to be a perfect place to work and live above their art studios. Today, loft apartments are still above businesses or manufacturing sectors, and may look like the typical, industrial style loft with a large open space, exposed brick walls and high ceilings. Or, they may look like more traditional apartments with separated rooms and carpet. Many loft apartments are also now being built in new developments, often targeted at the well-to-do.

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