If you look above the Court Street Grille in downtown Lincolnton, donâ€™t be surprised to see a furry feline peering back.
The cat, Fluffy, is one of two residents now living in Lincolntonâ€™s first downtown loft. Charlotte Rhyne, Fluffyâ€™s roommate, hopes her new home is the start of a trend.
â€œThe lights of the upper level of Lincolnton should be lit up in a few years,â€ she said.
Rhyne owns Court Street Grilleâ€™s building, which dates back to 1910. She started converting the upstairs space into a loft last Christmas.
â€œAt the time I was getting ready to make a new residence wherever it may be,â€ she said.
The loft originally looked like a â€œbowling alleyâ€ and was used only for storage. A former funeral home and furniture store, it has been completely made over.
With the help of an architect and interior decorator, it is now a 2,000-square-foot loft with 14-foot high ceilings. The design is â€œeclectic,â€ according to Blake Ballard of Jonathan Ballard Interiors. He calls it a mix of â€œIrish/English antiques tempered with classic modern.â€
Only bathrooms and storage space have separate rooms. A wall for the bedroom was briefly considered, but that idea was quickly thrown out.
â€œWe wanted a true loft,â€ Ballard said. â€œThere was no reason to have a wall.â€
Instead of using rooms to separate space, Ballard used furniture. The loft can be divided up into a kitchen, dining area, entertainment area, entertaining area and bedroom. Along the brick wall are windows offering a view of the courtsquare.
If that view isnâ€™t enough, Rhyne and her guests can head up to the roof where a deck has been furnished with tables and chaise lounges.
â€œPeople donâ€™t realize what kind of view you have from the upper level,â€ she said.
She hopes with her loft completed, people will start taking notice of the possibility of loft living.
In her mind, lofts could be built all up and down Main Street, and if this is done, it could invigorate the downtown economy.
There is one catch â€” parking. Rhyne is currently working to convince Lincolntonâ€™s city council that new parking ordinances are in order.
If she succeeds, she plans to take the space left above Court Street Grille and turn it into two new lofts.
She already has interested bidders and believes there is a demand for such housing.
â€œThese people that are living in apartments havenâ€™t had any other options or investment opportunities,â€ she said.
After living in her new home for three weeks, Rhyne is a big proponent of lofts â€” there is no need for lawn maintenance, she can walk to her job at Creative Travel and bicycle to buy her groceries.
In fact, she can enjoy pizza and a beer at Court Street Grille and be home in less than a minute.
Her cat is also settling in nicely. Fluffy can usually be found camped out on the window sill.
â€œHe loves it,â€ Rhyne said. â€œHe loves to look at whatâ€™s going on on Main Street.â€
by Sarah Grano