The M.A. Winter Co. building at 1436 U St. NW has been converted into commercial lofts, one of the few such conversions in the Washington area and one of the first major private investments in the 14th Street corridor since the completion of the District's new Municipal Center.

Warehouse lofts usually evoke images of abandoned factories in Manhattan, where the concept of turning factory spreads into office space is widely accepted. But because there are so few industrial buildings in this area, the opportunity to create professional lofts here is limited.

The Winter building, which was called the Bennett Building for several years, was built in 1908 and initially housed a storage and transfer business. It was vacant when Columbia Associates bought it in September from the Duro Construction Co.

Columbia Associates, a partnership of David Miller and Kenton Campbell, undertook the four-story, 40,000-square-foot project last summer and completed it in 10 months at a cost of $3 million. Miller and Campbell are both owners and developers of the project.

"The building is ideal for residential lofts but is zoned commercial, and we've priced it accordingly," said Miller. Rates for the 20 units, which range from 600 to 6,000 square feet each, range from $16.50 to $18.50 per square foot annually.

Milton Schinberg of the architectural firm A+B+S designed the renovation, which features exposed brick walls, cast iron columns, steel beams and 11- to 22-foot ceilings. Current tenants include the A+B+S firm; a studio run by former White House photographer Michael Evans; Illuminations Inc., a lighting design showroom, and Peter Starbuck Associates, a builder/contractor.

The building has been on the market for the past month and 45 percent of its offices have been leased. Miller said he expects the building to be filled by Aug. 1.

"We're looking for people who want to live and work in the same place. That's what the place was designed for," Miller said. So far, the building has not attracted that type of tenant. "To date we've only the strict 9-to-5 type use," he said.

In other developments in commercial realty: Clark Tribble Harris & Li Architects P.A. leased 12,703 square feet at 1250 24th St. NW from The Kaempfer Co.

CRI real estate investment firm signed a 10-year lease for 58,000 square feet at 11200 Rockville Pk. from Richard H. Rubin Cos. -- Pamela Babcock