601 4th Street

Leading the loft revolution

A 1988 relaxation of the live/work building code in San Francisco’s SOMA district motivated Rick Holliday to revolutionize San Francisco’s housing market. Inspired by New York’s loft lifestyles, McKenzie, Rose & Holliday Development converted the Heublein Building, a historic wine distributorship, to The Lofts at 601 4th Street. Despite the pending recession, San Franciscans found the concept irresistible, and we took reservations on all 88 units in one day.

Completed: 1991
Project value: $25 million
Number of units: 88
Project area: 151,000 square feet
Site area: 42,213 square feet
Average unit size: 1,360 square feet
Average unit price (1991): $285,000
Average unit price (2003 estimated): $660,000
Density per acre: 88 units/acre
Parking: 91 spaces


  • Bay Area lenders were reluctant to finance a new, unproven concept for which there was no market comparisons.
  • City inspectors were unfamiliar with the new live-work code they were charged with enforcing, creating delays and confusion. building exterior
  • Potential loft owners were unfamiliar with the flexible floor plans of loft living.


As early as 1991, McKenzie, Rose & Holliday Development recognized that many professional people preferred city life to the suburban commute, and that the personal computer and fax machine were enabling a new work-from-home lifestyle. The solution: loft-style housing similar to New York’s warehouse conversions. We found the perfect match in 601 4th Street, a 151,000-square-foot former warehouse. The building had space for parking, was seismically sound, and allowed for very competitive pricing. Completed in 1991, the 85 condominium units and three roof-garden penthouses featured enormous windows, 14-to-16-foot ceilings, industrial architecture, dramatic views, and spacious, flexible layouts. To help new owners understand how to design and furnish their lofts, we created Lofts by Design, a design center that offered buyers choices in flooring, cabinets, lighting, work-area furnishings, and kitchen fixtures.


The success of 601 4th Street led to a dramatic transformation of the surrounding neighborhood from dingy industrial area to vibrant entrepreneurial district synonymous with the high-tech boom. Residents and businesses poured into the area; hip restaurants, clubs, and hotels cropped up next to traditional industrial businesses such as printing presses, furniture warehouses, and fabric wholesalers. The result is the dynamic, diverse neighborhood Rick Holliday envisioned back in 1988.

Media and Awards

Best Dressed San Franciso Magazine 1991