and motivation matter in city's heart
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 10, 2004 12:00 AM
Goran and Deborah Ryden were tired of living
in a retirement community, where everyone's the
Donna Niemann has a thriving art gallery in Scottsdale,
but she's single with grown kids and wanted a
small home in
a thriving area.
Wally and Liz McClure owned a business nearby
and were tired of the long commute to their Litchfield
Loft owners with different motives. But all say
they're happy they changed their lifestyles and
embraced urban living, buying condominiums in
downtown Tempe's Orchidhouse development, on Sixth
Street east of Mill Avenue.
"I can shop, I can walk to the movies. It's
a great little community," owner Deborah
She and her husband say they found life in Sun
Lakes, south of Chandler, too predictable. Now,
they feel energized living a short block off Mill
Avenue, with its shops, restaurants and vibrant
"There are people living here from 18 up
to their 70s," says her husband, Goran, who
also likes to walk or bike to catch sporting events
at Arizona State University. "You know, when
you're surrounded by younger people, you feel
The 83-unit loft project received negative publicity
in 2002 and 2003 after developer MCW Holdings
was sued by several subcontractors for back payments.
Most of those issues have been resolved, and today,
all of the units but one penthouse have been sold.
Perhaps because many of the loft owners have
been through a lot together - including delays
moving in as the developer worked through construction
problems - they have become a tightknit community
in this seven-story building. "We've met
more people here than we ever knew in Sun Lakes,"
Deborah Ryden says.
Owners have organized several building-wide parties.
"It's a very social building, so I'm very
involved with the neighbors," gallery-owner
Niemann says. "It's just a nice place to
be for a single person."
These are not lofts in the traditional sense
because they weren't converted from warehouses
or other previous uses. But the new construction
has many of the same design elements, including
exposed brick, electrical conduit and air ducts,
and interior walls that sometimes act more as
With the exception of the penthouse and some
corner units, most also present a lesson in compact
The Rydens made the adjustment from a 2,200-square-foot
detached home to 916 square feet here.
Deborah Ryden says it was hard at first, "and
then I found it such a cleansing experience to
free myself from all these things. By the second
and third sweep through I was really getting rid
of a lot of things."
In other words, simplifying her life. "We've
never been sad we made the move from a regular
house to here, even with the challenges of living
small," she says.
Niemann's loft reflects her business life, working
with artists. The walls and shelves hold eclectic,
original pieces in various styles, sculpture to
sketches, mixed-media to oils.
"People come into my space - and it's not
a very large space, only about 1,100 square feet
- and I think what people are drawn to right away
is the art," she says.
Niemann believes art dramatically impacts a home's
environment. And especially with original art,
she feels the artist's hand and energy in the
space. "For me, it's very soothing and very
So are the views.
Her fourth-story loft faces north, offering close-up
views of ASU's "A" Mountain, and the
Papago Buttes and Camelback Mountain in the distance.
Two floors up, Wally and Liz McClure enjoy a
corner unit with views that become especially
dramatic at dusk as the lights come up in the
taller structures around ASU.
"We see Sun Devil Stadium out one window
and Gammage out another window, and it's just
wonderful," Liz says. "We can walk to
all those places, too."
They made a gourmet kitchen the centerpiece of
their nearly 1,500-square-foot loft. The idea
was based on a slogan they saw in a magazine ad
for high-end appliances: "If you can only
have one room, make it your kitchen."
"So that's what we decided to do,"
Liz says. "We decided to make it the big
part of our room."
It has bar seating for six around a split granite
counter, contemporary halogen cable lighting and
a TV mounted high in one corner. The design makes
it easy for the cook to work on either half of
the split island while mingling with guests, who
can sip drinks, talk and socialize while relaxing
on tall barstools.
But for a couple that spent hours commuting to
work in the East Valley while living in the West
Valley's Litchfield Park, freedom from their car
- and yardwork - has been the biggest draw.
just don't have to go anyplace,"
Wally says. "There's always something going