Just a few years ago, Nahetzin Grijalva was the consummate commuter. She had a nice house with a huge back yard, but didn't know her neighbors. An independent contractor, it took her at least 30 minutes to get everywhere she went.

That was when she lived in California, but things didn't get any better when her work took her to Westminster, Colorado. In the six months she continued to work as an independent contractor, she struggled with a stressful commute to Lakewood, only saw her house and her dogs at lunch, and rolled in after dark each night.

"My biggest gripe was that I was spending two or more hours in a car a day," she said. Ready for life outside the car, she looked for it and found it. By moving to Arista Live/Work Lofts on Colony Road in Broomfield in April and opening a coffee shop called Loftea Café with her husband, George, in the retail space below, she's narrowed her commute down to a few steps and two minutes.

"Here, I know everyone. I know the people who stay here and the business people in the area," Grijalva said. "And you feel more attached because you're part of people's routines. People from the Aloft Hotel a block and a half away come to get breakfast.

"You really get to be part of a community," she added.

Grijalva and her husband are renting their home and retail space, and maintaining their home in California, but don't have any plans right now to move back year-round. "I said to my husband the other day that I don't miss the house. It was a lot of upkeep. Hard to keep pretty."

Also tired of the commute is Gordon Dauphinais, who lives at Arista with his wife, Carri. While the Dauphinais own three vehicles due to their work, they still feel they are spending less: Less time in the car and less money on living and business expenses. "We wanted to consolidate everything under one bill. I've seen a 15 to 20 percent savings in the cost of doing business," Dauphianis said.

A traditional solution to Dauphinais' unique situation, owning three businesses, Creative Force Graphics, Performance Kart Sport and Panther Chains, might have had them working under three roofs. In that instance, "you're paying a couple of times for sewer and water and rent," Dauphinais said.


Live/work not a new concept

Living where you work isn't new. Consider movies set in the Old West with living quarters above the saloon. But its popularity in America is growing. The Census Bureau's most recent estimate, made from community surveys conducted in 2009, recorded 5.9 million people in the United States who lived where they worked. That's up from 4.5 million in 2003. In Colorado, the number of people who lived where they worked in 2003 was estimated at 128,007. In 2009, it was an estimated 166,093 — a nearly 30 percent increase.

"We (as a country) moved away from urban living, but now it's coming back," said Jonathan Nassar, president of New Design Logic LLC of Westminster. His company, as well as Sunburst Design LLC and Daniel H. O'Brien Architecture are developers of Arista Live/Work Lofts. Nassar said that the live/work setup is one that never really left Europe, but here, environmental concerns and costs have people re-thinking homes in suburbia. Nassar certainly is. While he still owns a 5,000-square-foot home in the northern suburbs of Denver, it's on the market. Already using one of Arista's retail spaces for his office, his plans are to move the wife and kids in upstairs as soon as the old house sells.

"This is walkable and commuter-friendly," he said. "I think people are realizing that gas won't get to be any cheaper." He pointed out that when living at Arista, going to work just means a walk to your office or to retail space downstairs.

For a small-business owner renting a space and paying a mortgage, living and working at home can also be more affordable. Utilities work out to 60 percent less expensive, Nassar said. Floor plans at Arista include attached garages, although now that the Regional Transportation District is available, a tenant or buyer could conceivably live there without a car. Arista's amenities include public transit, parks within walking distance, and the nearby 1stBank Center providing live music, family shows and sporting events. Stainless-steel appliances, pre-finished bamboo flooring, granite countertops and custom European-style cabinetry make the living space modern. A fiber-network technology package is available. A new hospital will soon break ground a block from Arista, a Children's Hospital Outpatient Clinic.

Living space is 2,700 to 3,000 square feet with 700 to 900 square feet for retail. Live/work units are available in one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans. Of the 13 units available at Arista, half have been sold or leased.