I've been interested in the Rice Mill Lofts, the pricy, converted warehouse apartment complex in Bywater, ever since I spotted a Craigslist ad for the place in my most recent apartment search. You see, it's not just a building where you pay the kind of rent that makes people in bigger cities hate their lives (rent starts at $1,100 for a 930-square-foot studio), it seems the building aims to cultivate a culture with members of the self-branded "creative class" that's proliferated post-Katrina. Below is part of the description that appeared in the Craiglist ad and is on thebuilding's website
The Rice Mill Lofts is a joyful tribute. To the Creative Ones. The Artisans and Entrepreneurs. Whether one plies his craft on a literal canvas or grows her company as her canvas. It heralds a new time, in this legendary place. The cogent voice of new talent with new ideas. A creative culture of invention. And the passion
fueling the reinvention of America’s boutique city.
(The arbitrary capitalization is theirs, not mine.)
Yesterday the New York Times published an article on the lofts and those brave Artisans who live inside, and it's mostly divorced people who enjoy ironic graffiti.
The building has a lot of graffiti left over from the time it sat unused, and that seems to be a huge selling point among potential residents. One resident, soap opera actress Cady McClain, who lives in a unit with As the World Turns cast mate Jon Lindstrom, says in the article "the graffiti was a huge plus - it definitely made us want to live here.” Developer Sean Cummings of the firm Ekistics says there is usually a waiting list for apartments with expressive graffiti. That's funny, because you can usually live among graffiti (outside) for free, without waiting at all!
Speaking of homeless people, one Rice Mills resident finds one portion of the building's graffiti particularly evocative:
“I’m a vivid dreamer,” said [Lauren] Kolb, 34, who moved in after a divorce. “I dream about this building and imagine homeless people camping out and setting up little homes for themselves.”
Kolb isn't the only divorcee living here: one resident, a former Manhattan trader who moved to the city two years ago, says "on my floor, everyone is either separated or just got divorced ... sometimes we’re each other’s therapists.”
Earlier in the article, another residents says he has now stopped going to bars in favor of enjoying the lofts' community on the building's roof, where residents presumably gather to "plie their craft" by the pool.
It's not my place to tell people to not live in the fanciest dormitory in town if they have the money for it - the rest of us peasants can only legally experience that kind of luxury one day a week - although in this city you can live in a beautiful, hundreds-year-old house for way less. But why so ascribe so much importance and meaning to paying a lot of money to live in an old warehouse? At one point in the article, Cummings says his development company's ethos with real estate projects like the Rice Mills is "... great beauty infused with great meaning ... (t)he reason we do that is it touches people on a spiritual level.” In Cumming's view, living here may make you one of the "Creative Ones," but to other people, you're just spending a whole lot of money on rent.