John Zook’s vacation home has all the perks he could want — views of the mountains, restaurants within walking distance and a heated pool for the kids. It’s also 10 minutes from his Paradise Valley home.
Zook is part of an eclectic group that is keeping one foot in suburbia and the other in a high-rise. Although there are no solid numbers, experts say the idea is on its way to becoming a trend.
“Right now they’re more of an exception to the rule, however with this new urban lifestyle, more people are going to consider it,” said Dominic Scappaticci, president and designated broker at Equitable, which specializes in the luxury market. “To have a loft or urban-type residence close by makes sense if you can do it economically. I do think you’ll start to see more.”
LOFT AS DISNEYLAND
Zook works at a home lending company in north Scottsdale. He has a home in Paradise Valley he shares with his wife and two daughters, ages 4 and 5. It has four bedrooms, a theater room, a kitchen, a living room, a family room and a backyard with a jungle gym.
It’s quiet and it offers a lot of space.
But it doesn’t compare with a home the Plaza Lofts at Kierland Commons on Scottsdale Road, which the family bought in 2005.
There, they have a two-bedroom loft situated in the heart of 38 acres of upscale dining, shopping and entertainment venues, including Morton’s Steakhouse, the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa and Tommy Bahama. The lofts can run as much as $3 million.
The Counter restaurant, which makes Zook’s favorite roast beef sandwich, is 10 feet away from the elevator. The Zinc Bistro is across the narrow street.
“It’s like Disneyland,” Zook said.
For a while, Zook was using the loft as an office, but eventually it evolved into a nice place to spend a weekend or use as a guest home.
“It’s like going on vacation without having to leave,” he said.
A weekend activity for his family might include picking up a movie at Barnes and Noble — which is across the courtyard — using the heated pool, or just as a getaway for the couple.
“Especially at the home in Paradise Valley, the bedrooms are all down one hall,” he said. “We have our own space here.”
Zook said his family is having a new house built 3 miles south of his Paradise Valley home, and that the loft may become an interim residence.
His daughters already have turned the closet under the stairs into a playroom, and Zook admits it would be nice to talk to each other without having to yell.
“Could I live here full time? I could for a while. I might go a little stir crazy.”
PLACE TO CRASH
Despite his constant presence in the public eye, Craig Jackson is a “pretty private person.”
The president of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company keeps a home in Paradise Valley, but he is buying a place in the second tower of the Plaza Lofts at Kierland Commons, currently under construction.
“My house is my house, and I think having a place there next to the office will be nice,” he said.
Jackson is building a new corporate headquarters near the Dial Corporation, across the street from Kierland Commons.
He plans to use the loft for his “best customers,” vendors and sponsors of the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction, held annually in Scottsdale.
It will make a great place for catered parties or a place to crash when working late, he said.
But he also envisions the place as a home away from home.
“It’ll be fun to have the kids come over, use the pool, and use it as a place on weekends,” he said. “There’s a lot more interaction than where I live.”
Jackson, along with several other residents at the lofts, also pointed to an issue of safety.
Going out to dinner and having a few cocktails does not mix well with a long drive back to north Scottsdale or Paradise Valley.
But the loft takes care of the problem.
A group of friends can go out and enjoy themselves, and easily make the walk from the Ocean Club restaurant back home.
“You don’t have to worry,” Jackson said.
Trudy Hammond spent years getting her north Scottsdale house to look absolutely perfect.
She didn’t expect the minimalist lifestyle to be so attractive.
Hammond and her husband, Bill, head up Signature Properties, the broker for the Plaza Lofts at Kierland Commons.
She spends her time selling all the perks of the lofts. Eventually, she sold one to herself.
“The more we are here, the more connected we are. By the time we were finishing it, we were using it more than the big house,” she said. But the Hammonds had just added 1,000 square feet of space to their north Scottsdale home, so they weren’t quite ready to give that up.
“Now we split the time between the two,” Hammond said.
One of the biggest draws to the loft life is the vibrant energy everybody shares.
In other words, it’s like living in an adult dorm. Everybody knows their neighbors and leaves their doors open for parties. You don’t get that in suburbia, Hammond said.
“When I go home, I pull into the garage and I push the button. Then I go in and the house is empty. We hardly know the neighbors,” she said.
Although there are Safeway and Fry’s grocery stores nearby, Hammond said it’s easier to go out, or order food from a restaurant and people-watch from the balcony.
“We had 70 people in here one night,” she said.
The floor-to-ceiling windows slide open to connect the living room and the balcony. And Hammond uses a tall table on wheels that converts to a bar to serve drinks.
Other modern fixtures include remote-controlled sliding doors to unveil a big-screen TV, a coffee table that can be made smaller or larger, and an unfinished industrial look on the ceiling.
“I wouldn’t have that in the other house,” Hammond said.
Living above 70 shops and restaurants has more than the obvious perks of good food fast.
It’s also been a chance to forge relationships, said Liz Jones, co-owner of Bacchus Wine Made Simple.
Loft residents receive a 10 percent discount at her store, and she makes it a point to remember their names and what they like.
“If you’ve seen ‘Cheers,’ that’s what we try to do,” she said. “People come in and we greet them immediately.”
Jones keeps a list of regular customers and their tastes. She also keeps an open tab.
Hammond said certain stores and restaurants in Kierland are happy to hold on to loft owners’ credit card information, making it easy to pop by for a gift or a case of wine.
During a recent party, Hammond ran out of wine and called Jones in a panic.
Ten minutes later, there was a case of wine at the front door. That service is not extended to residential neighborhoods.
“I want to be able to have a fun place that people come and sit, talk to you and have a cheese board,” Jones said. “We want to become friends with them.”
Suburban vs. urban life
• Multiple bedrooms
• Space for boats, quads, other cars
• Privacy from neighbors
• Close to schools, children’s activities
• Walking distance to food, shops, entertainment
• Close relationships with neighbors
• No pool or yard to maintain
• Fitness facility
• Less upkeep