Have you ever fallen in love with one of your projects? Truly, deeply in love? Larry Speck has. “Halfway through construction, I said, Damn, this is nice!” says Speck, referring to the Austin City Lofts.
Speck, a partner in the firm of PageSoutherlandPage, couldn't resist the 12-foot-high ceilings, huge windows, exposed concrete floors, and open plan of the lofts he helped design in the Texas capital. An empty nester with two grown sons, he sold his outlying 2,100-sf house and bought a loft of equal floor space.
Speck now walks to work at PSP's Austin office or to the University of Texas, where the one-time dean teaches in the architecture school. His neighbors include four other architects and a young couple who asked him to be their baby's godfather, as well as the mayor, Democrat Will Wynn, and his family.
“Let me give you the spiel the mayor gives,” says Speck, an AIA fellow. “One, you can get rid of your car, or keep the car and put only half the miles on it. Everything you need is within walking distance—14 restaurants, a bike trail, Whole Foods, and so on.
“Two, my energy bill is about one-fourth what I paid with the house.” He cites the loft project's double-pane glass, superior construction, “super-efficient” HVAC system, and reduced building perimeter compared to a standalone house.
“Three, super-duper acoustical isolation,” he adds. “I have my godchild living next door, and I've never heard any crying.”
The bottom line, he says, is that Austin City Loft owners can put those saving into other investments or lifestyle benefits: “As the mayor says, it's affordable living, not just affordable housing.”