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List Price: $799,000
The Property: The downtown, urban look of this onetime metal-stamping factory, now a residence, belies its neighborhood, a charming part of Evanston where the streets are lined with neat medium-size Victorians and deep front lawns. Tucked behind a row of houses on an alley, the building is a remnant of a long-gone industrial strip that ran behind the houses.

Mark Schaefer, an architect, bought the building 20 years ago from the owner of the house out front, who had begun converting it into livable space. Schaefer and his father did most of the labor completing the job, which included tearing off part of the second floor to create a bright two-story living room, as well as fabricating a steel staircase and maple-plywood trim that evoked the structure’s origins.

“It looked to me like a unique opportunity to express the industrial feel of the place, but in a way that didn’t feel too rough,” says Schaefer, who moved into the building in 1991. “Sometimes the [early] loft people were too literal: they’d keep the oil stains. But everything was already gone from this building.” Schaefer kept most of the brick of the walls exposed, except toward the back of the house, where he wanted “a homier feeling for the family spaces.”

Long before it was hip, Schaefer did a “green” project. Among the energy-saving techniques and materials, he insulated the windows, water pipes, exterior doors, and garage doors; and he installed high-efficiency heat, air conditioning, and water-heating machinery. In another kind of prescience, Schaefer installed concrete countertops in the kitchen just because he knew a guy who could make them; seventeen years later, concrete countertops are in.

The 2,300-square-foot home is laid out now as a two-bedroom residence with two and a half baths; a spacious open area on the second floor that is now part family room and part office could easily become a third bedroom and still leave room for gathering. Schaefer listed the house for sale in October; he plans to renovate another former factory down the alley from this one and move in.

While this was once a factory neighborhood, it’s now a quiet part of town. The alley isn’t used for anything except residents’ access to their garages. “We don’t hear anything but, once in a while, somebody’s air conditioner,” Schaefer says. And the best part of living on the alley? “No solicitors.”

Price Points: Although it’s a single-family home, in some ways Schafer’s house compares more directly to Evanston condos—because of its urban character and its small, enclosed garden (rather than front and rear yards). Looking at assorted new and old condos listed for sale in town, I found that asking prices ranged from about $310 to $370 a square foot. The asking price here lands right about in the middle: $347 a square foot.

Listing Agent: Joe Siciliano of @Properties, 773-305-0462; See more about the house at