Lofts first became popular among the artist population in New York City. It started with the colonization of under-utilized buildings in the industrial/derelict areas. Most of these units were illegal with respects to life safety and residential living.
When the trend of live/work space became clear, it attracted the attention of the real estate developers and planning departments. They saw that this type of living as a way to revitalize the inner cities by bringing back residents to the inner city.
In the 1980's more non-artists began to move into the lofts, which were use primarily as their residence and did not work out of them. These non-artist gentrified neighborhoods which attracted tourists and from the suburbs to the spawning of espresso bars, eateries and boutiques.
Most cities had loft districts by the mid 1990's, with the pattern starting with the artist, then the non-artist, and ending with the straight residential. This lifecycle has revitalized many inner cities. Loft style living is attractive to a variety of the population, i.e. self-employed individuals, small business owners, piece workers and telecommuters.