Some of the city's most experienced architects and developers, sitting as Oklahoma City's Downtown Design Review Committee, were happily stunned Thursday as they were introduced to a concept new to the market: the conversion of used shipping containers into shops, offices and stores.
The corner of NE 4 and Harrison has been empty for decades, and the lot's owner, Matt Brown, was not ready to pursue any significant development. But the site is prominent, at the gateway to Automobile Alley and Deep Deuce, and is next to hundreds of apartments and townhomes.
Architect Wade Scaramucci approached Brown with the idea of assembling 12 shipping containers linked together with walkways, stairways and balconies that will allow for small restaurants, coffee shops, stores and offices to start up at costs far below normal downtown lease rates. The containers will span a total of 3,600 square feet and will adjoin a centrally located set of restrooms.
“There are a number of pieces of property like this that are in gateway areas, but due to various circumstances there's a difficulty in doing something more,” Scaramucci said. “So we looked for something temporary that can be placed there while waiting for better opportunities ahead.”
Scaramucci, who designed nearby Level and Mosaic apartments for developer Richard McKown, is no stranger to working with converted shipping containers. His firm, London-based Allford, Hall, Monaghan, Morris, previously assembled a series of shipping containers into a home in the United Kingdom, where such developments have become commonplace.
“Part of the cost effectiveness is you can come up with a container for $4,000,” Scaramucci said. “So the money spent is on taking a container and reusing it in an appropriate way.”
And unlike traditional construction, when the property's owners seek to build something permanent on the corner, the plaza, OKSEA, can be moved to another site.
Scaramucci said interest in the project seems strong. Food trucks, he added, are a natural fit for the development.