Here now, Past Lives, in which Curbed contributor Chris Berger explores what some of the country's most interesting residential buildings used to be before they became livable homes. Care to suggest a building with a fascinating past life? Do drop us a line.
An old box factory may not sound like a thrilling place to live. But don’t tell that to the urbanites who call Tampa’s Box Factory Lofts home: there’s more to the former Tampa Box Company building than its plain name suggests. The area was a cigar-rolling powerhouse from the late 1800s through the Great Depression, and the wooden cigar boxes produced at the factory were shipped across the globe. Business was so brisk that the firm billed itself as the largest in the world. But cigars eventually lost their cachet, and the complex passed to other industrial uses.
? The property was beaten up when it was purchased by a developer in 2004. Windows were boarded, the wood was decayed, and a truck had slammed into the wall. But the one-story, box-shaped structure had a malleable layout and prime location, just east of downtown Tampa in energetic Ybor City, that made it ideal for conversion into 53 lofts.
? The rehabilitation carefully meshed the building’s historical fabric with new features. The rusticated block walls were stripped and painted in the original colors, and the 9-foot-tall windows were replaced in kind and painted rust brown. A 5.5-foot-tall vertical addition—built to cram in as many units as possible—was stepped back to minimize its visual impact. Rafters were reused in the living areas, where the ceiling remained at its original height.
? Concrete block walls partition the units, which range in size from 950 to 1,700 square feet and include 20-foot-tall ceilings and stained concrete floors. Exposed ducts add to the industrial feel, and steel and wood stairs lead to the lofted master bedrooms. Parking was built into the structure, and a pool was dug in the enclosed central courtyard.
? In addition to their unique accommodations, residents value their proximity to work, culture, and nightlife. All the lofts sold for about $200,000 to $400,000, though some are occasionally rented.