Imagine when the old cotton press warehouse at the east end of Auburn Avenue was built, in the first half of the last century. It was a state-of-the-art construction. All concrete and brick, not some liter-wood fire trap like the hump-backed cotton warehouses of yore. The people who built it probably beamed with almost as much pride as the artists who live in the place now — not that the original builders would recognize it.
Now called Studioplex , the ceiling's been ripped out right down to the spine so blue sky shines through above patches of newly planted grass and plots of flowers and shrubs outside loft apartments. There are businesses, investment advisors, retail shops and travel agents chugging along next to more artsy concerns like movie studios and glass-blowing hotboxes. With residential rent starting at $790 and commercial rent at $1,400, it's filling up fast and will soon embrace a restaurant under the old warehouse's water tower.
Near the other end of Auburn, west of the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District and the massive churches of Big Bethel and Wheat Street Baptist, beyond the shining black obelisk of the Equitable Building, is the Stuart Peebles Building, better known in the Fairlie-Poplar district as The Art Building. A happy, bouncy jumble of color and creativity, the studio/retail space at the corner of Cone and Luckie streets actually started harboring artists in the mid-1980s. That's when Paige Harvey moved into the top floor, along with her enormous canvases of abstract animalistic motion. The middle floor is the habitat of Tom Haney and Paula Joerling, whose chunky sculptures contribute to the Romper Room ambience. The circa 1920 building looks like a Parisian souvenir dropped from the pocket of an eccentric child. Long windows topped by faux gables smile out over boxes the residents keep stocked with flowers. The building has always housed retail, but now, the store on the first floor shimmers with baubles and smells of bubbles.
From there, a trip back east to 621 North Ave. brings a visitor to the Southern Dairies Building, a loft project that still looks as if squeaky-clean milkmen ought to be straightening their bow ties in the parking lot. Clean lines are found inside where glass doorways reveal counters and partitions that curve away into delicious whorls of colors. Between renters like eHatchery and Pogo Pictures, are landscaped gardens and courtyards. Space at the Dairy is priced at about $20 per square foot.