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 Imagine clicking a remote control to open a full-sized garage door and letting fresh air in — to your living room. That's a reality for some of the tenants now living in the new Market Lofts, the latest historic rehabilitation project in downtown Davenport by Restoration St. Louis.

The century-old warehouse, located at 427 Pershing Ave., has been converted into 37 loft-style units. 

"With historic buildings, you play with what you're given," said Amy Gill, who with her husband, Amrit Gill, owns Restoration St. Louis. "A building will say 'this is what I am and this is what you have to work with. Now, figure out how to get there.' "

"We had a lot of fun with this project," said Gill, whose separate company, Checkmate Design, handled the architectural design. "We've done a lot of lofts, but we've never done anything like this. It's hip-storic."

Built in 1905 for Smith Bros. & Burdick Co. as a grocery warehouse, the original structure left plenty of unique spaces and architectural elements to create true loft-style apartments. Among them, the garage door openings that once were docks where boxes of groceries went in and out. The solution was to install new, energy-efficient garage doors and span the opening with a decorative railing so when the door was opened it  created a one-of-a-kind balcony.

Market Lofts was the first full project for Nathan Zierer, Checkmate's design architect, whose designs carved out 37 units ranging from studio apartments up to three-bedroom units. The four-story building also offers a community room with comfortable seating, a television and pool table as well as a total-body workout gym and additional storage, both located in the lower level. Outdoors on the southwest side of the building, a  small, heated swimming pool has been installed.

"We wanted to keep the industrial chic look," Zierer said while touring the lofts last month. He pointed out the structure's massive structural columns left in their original state with worn paint and the original brick exterior walls. Accenting the open floor plans are new elements such as exposed mechanicals and new wooden, sliding barn doors on all the bedrooms.

Many inconspicuous details were left in place to keep the building's industrial roots, such as a set of old railroad tracks that run alongside a newly poured sidewalk, original framework on the doors and cross beams with original hardware. Although each unit is different in shape and size depending on its location in the building, they all have high ceilings, new flooring and lighting, walk-in closets, granite countertops and custom cabinetry. 

The building's artwork also is reminiscent of its early days and is the work of the Gills' friend, Andy Cross, a St. Louis scenic artist. "They're based on historical photos we found in the library archives," she said, adding that several of the contractors on the project have their names hidden within the paintings. 

The $9.6 million project joins Restoration St. Louis' other downtown projects, which began with the historic restoration of Hotel Blackhawk in 2010 as well as the nearby Forrest Block and Renwick Building, which both are loft housing projects.

The Gills purchased the 54,000-square-foot Market Lofts building two years ago. The next major project for Restoration St. Louis is the renovation of the Parker-Putnam block on Davenport's 2nd Street into City Square, which is set to begin construction soon. Also ahead is the Kahl Building renovation and a future urban campus for Scott Community College, which will be on the north side of the Parker-Putnam block.

Of the 37 units in Market Lofts, 34 have been leased since the building opened in January. Rachel Stahle, leasing coordinator for Front Door Iowa (Restoration St. Louis' management/leasing company), said the units have filled up fast. "They're easy to sell," she said, adding most of the apartments "are filled with young professionals and people who just graduated from college and now working at Deere, the Rock Island Arsenal and a lot of Von Maur corporate employees."

"The thing is to be creative and have fun with the elements you are given, instead of just creating the same cookie-cutter design," Gill said. "Why would you do the same thing over and over."

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