Blog: Tracy Koe Wick

Post No. 1

Downtown Detroit has an inventory of available warehouse buildings and for years has been an artists’ haven. Now, Live/Work residences are appearing in suburban Detroit cities, and they appeal to a variety of individuals with professions outside the arts. In this series of blogs I will:

  • explore the history of live/work residences
  • give you a 'tour' of several new suburban live/work developments
  • talk about why live/work lofts are emerging in the suburbs
  • introduce you to who lives in live/work lofts
  • speak about the future of live/work projects, and
  • invite your feedback.

Artists originated the live/work lifestyle. They claimed space in abandoned or rundown industrial buildings for reasons beyond affordability. Warehouse space is open with high ceilings and walls of windows, so it is conducive to shooting photographs and painting large canvases. The space was also large enough for them to live and work in the same space.

A designer friend of mine used to live and work in a Detroit loft without proper heat and a finished full bath. She made do, as part of her journey as an artist, but later moved into a secure building on Jefferson Avenue with fence-protected parking where she now lives and works. Her current space accommodates her residential needs and her needs for an office, all within the confines of a historic apartment building.

So, my friend lives and works in her apartment. Would her place be considered live/work? I would tend to say "no", because most new live/work projects feature street level retail/office space. However, originally, artists lived and worked in their lofts which did not have this feature. I see live/work evolving past this current presentation, so I will leave that question up for discussion on the blog. (By the way, her loft has been featured in the Metro Times and her work can be found at

Over time, loft living in downtown or warehouse districts became more mainstream, but the live/work components were disconnected. The Kirkwood Group’s creative and project management team works in a loft in downtown Ann Arbor (You can view photos of the loft at This space has exposed brick walls, 17' high ceilings, open rafters, track lighting and visible mechanical ducts. The space is very open. Two executive offices are separated from the rest of the loft with top-sliding translucent door walls. The space was formerly a theatre, then office, and now renovated loft-office.

From experience, I can tell you that a loft office is not ideal for all users. Our team is very collaborative and creative, so the open environment works for us. The air-divided space is not ideal for other businesses that safeguard confidential information, such as lawyers or financial consultants. 

Tomorrow we will 'tour' two live/work projects in the Detroit suburbs.