It helps to have an elevator.
Which is just what Kristin Brown tells friends and the curious whenever they ask how in the world she’s going to get that baby stroller and other infant paraphernalia into her home. “We always get the question, ‘How are you going to carry all the baby gear in from the car when living on the second floor?’” Brown says. “To their surprise, our response is ‘Do you have an elevator in your home?’
“It’s not any more difficult living off ground level to get groceries or gear inside. It’s quite easy, and not something that should discourage someone from living in a condo.”
Kristin and her husband, Scott, have been doing just that since 2007 when the couple moved into the Kimball Lofts at 15th and Jones streets.
They had figured that when they began their life together, it would be in a house: The kind with a yard and a driveway (and mowing and shoveling). They were suburbanites, after all. Both grew up in west Omaha, attending Millard North High School together before graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Their first search for a home brought them to the Dundee neighborhood. The Browns found a house they liked but waited too long to bid on it. It was snatched up by the next day. Soon thereafter, Kristin got Scott to join her on the Downtown Condo Living Tour. That took them to Kimball Lofts.
“Neither of us had spent much time Downtown, but we knew we loved city living,” Kristin says. “Within minutes of touring the Kimball Lofts building we could picture ourselves starting our lives there as a married couple.
“The minimalist lifestyle was most appealing. We knew we’d use every bit of space in our condo. And we love to travel, so being able to pick up and go without the responsibilities that came with a traditional home was important to us.”
Still, the Browns figured their downtown living was only meant for two—and not for children. Once a third Brown was added, they’d get a home with a yard. “We assumed that’s where we’d end up sooner rather than later,” Kristin says. Sooner came in 2014 with Kristin due to give birth to her first child, Brock, in August. It wouldn’t be long until the 1,500 square feet they were sharing wouldn’t be enough.
They considered building on a lot in West Omaha, but without knowing how large their family would grow, found it difficult to commit to plans. They wanted something move-in ready. They found it across the hall in the largest condo in Kimball Lofts. Their neighbors had moved out. The Browns moved in. Now they had two bedrooms and gobs of entertaining space amid nearly 2,600 square feet.
“We decided to reevaluate our desires and what was important to us,” Kristin says.
The condo is ideal for entertaining. Natural light floods every room through tall windows inset into exposed exterior brick walls. The tops of young trees along 15th Street are visible and promise a dazzling palette come every fall.
Guests first enter a large kitchen featuring stainless steel appliances and a long stone countertop that seats six at bar stools. That flows into the living room and dining room, where the Browns have a table that can host 16 guests when it unfolds. Off the dining room is a small deck where Scott frequently grills. There’s a room for baby Brock and a spacious master bedroom. The ceiling is high and exposed throughout.
Kristin parks underground in a heated garage; Scott has a street-level stall in a gated lot. Their commute is almost nonexistent as both work downtown in sales, Scott at Gallup, Kristin with Pfizer.
“Not having to fight traffic day after day is a huge benefit,” she says.
Yes, there are space constraints. In their previous condo, Scott’s bikes—he rides regularly and competes in triathlons—were stored in the hallway. There’s room for them now in a closet, but today the baby stroller takes residence in the hallway. And the dryer is stacked atop the washer in their walk-in closet (at least there’s no trip to put away clean clothes).
But if they have to do with less stuff, they certainly have more stuff to do. The Browns are outside more often, perhaps, than their suburban counterparts with yards. From their condo, Scott can hit trails that take him through Iowa on the Wabash Trace or to Fort Calhoun. They walk downtown frequently—to the pedestrian bridge or throughout the Old Market. And quite frequently to dinner.
“Being able to walk out our front door to the best restaurants in Omaha is a huge perk,” Kristin says. “And everyone knows everyone. There’s nothing better than going to the local market or our favorite restaurant or coffee shop and being greeted by our first name.”