CORAL SPRINGS, FL – In up-and-coming neighborhoods in Orlando, Tampa, Paris, London, and other big cities, shipping containers converted into spaces for trendy restaurants and shops are popular with tourists and local hipsters.
So why not create similar places in Coral Springs?
It’s an issue the city’s redevelopment officials have been pondering for some time.
Last month, board members of the Coral Springs Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) discussed what it would take to set up a structure or a bunch of structures in the downtown made out of big steel containers.
Board member Germain Bebe has visited some popular “box” developments and talked to their builders and managers.
He said the structures are relatively cheap to convert and open into retail space compared to building brick-and-mortar shops. The containers are generally built out of thick steel meant to withstand harsh outside conditions, he said.
Developments such as Boxi Park in Orlando tend to attract homegrown businesses, particularly restaurants looking for cheaper rent, Bebe said.
“It’s a real sense of place,” he said. “It’s community-oriented. It’s affordable for vendors. Because it’s affordable, it can attract high-end restaurants who can come in with new concepts, new kitchens, and food.”
In recent years, rebuilt containers have had many uses in communities across the world, experts say.
In addition to creating space for trendy eateries and boutique shops, they have been used for housing for the homeless and veterans as well as those looking for smaller, greener places to live. They have also been used for hotels, offices, and even hospitals.
In Coral Springs, it’s not clear if city codes permit the use of shipping containers as stand-alone structures.
But for Bebe and fellow board members the idea is worth exploring further.
Chairman John Walsh said the concept should be discussed at an upcoming “visioning” meeting among the board members to strategize and plan for the future in the CRA district.
“Let’s take this along further and see what we could do,” Walsh said. “It’s one of the most novel ideas we’ve had in the CRA.”
Vice-Chair Andy Kasten joked about “outside the box” thinking of the concept.
“I love it. I think it’s awesome. I’d love to see it somewhere,” Kasten said.