Shopping Center Business

MAY 2015

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262 • SHOPPING CENTER BUSINESS • MAY 2015 tomers are is the most effective way to reach them." Retailers can also use the containers as a way to test out markets before commit- ting fully, Patel says. Rather than spending the massive amounts of money to build a shop in a new market where it's unsure if a business will succeed, a pop-up shop in a shipping container allows businesses to test the waters first. "If you don't have a presence in Ne- braska, you can spend tons of money de- termining if that's the right place to be. Shipping container shops let you see if the sales are there to support you," says Patel. Perfect for Quick DeveloPment The ability to set up quickly but stay as long as necessary makes shipping contain- ers ideal for areas that need retail faster than a brick-and-mortar building can be set up. One example is during disaster recovery. In September 2010, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch, the second- largest city in New Zealand. Less than six months later, it happened again — this time a 6.3-magnitude quake, but much closer to downtown, devastating the city's infrastructure. In the aftermath of the back-to-back disasters, Christchurch needed a way to breathe life back into the downtown area, which was 80 percent demolished according to Re:START, an organization rebuilding the city. The solution came in the form of ship- ping container retailers. As a fast, easy way to build without brick and mortar, a container mall was opened just seven months after the second earthquake. Upon opening, the "container mall" fea- tured 27 retailers — a number which has since grown to 50. Although it was meant to be temporary until downtown could be repaired, the so- lution was so popular that it was made a permanent feature of the city, says Claire Ginn, business development manager for Denver-based shipping container fabrica- tion company Popshopolis, who took a month-long trip to the site in December 2014. "They needed a quick, affordable and durable solution," says Ginn. "Between these huge, deserted skyscrapers, there are these shipping containers with restau- rants and coffee shops, which are actually cemented to the ground now." Popshopolis, which has made portable retail for clients such as AT&T, Dish and Mountain Dew, likes shipping containers for another big benefit — durability. "These things were designed with strength suitable to withstand shipment, storage, and handling. They are pretty much indestructible," says Ginn. "A sin- gle shipping container can easily withstand the weight of 8 or 10 more fully loaded containers on the top of it." The container mall concept isn't just for disaster recovery. The idea is taking hold in artsy neighborhoods all over the world, including London and Denver, and Ginn says she expects it to continue growing. "They're cool; they're affordable; they're innovative. People can turn [shipping containers] into anything they want," she says. "We get hundreds of in- quiries each year and the number is only growing." In Buffalo, New York, Boxman Studios fabricated two containers for the redevel- opment of the city's Canalside district. The booths are used for ticket sales and rentals — ice skates during the winter, bicycles and kayaks during the summer. "There's a lot of redevelopment going on around the country, especially outside metro areas," says Boxman's Patel. "They need that economic stimulation. It's very difficult for a city in that situation to put down permanent infrastructure." Shipping container villages give cities a chance to show "proof of concept" before committing to a full-scale retail district, Patel adds. In San Francisco, a shipping container village named The Yard at Mission Rock opened in March in the parking lot of AT&T Park, the home of the San Fran- cisco Giants. It uses 15 decommissioned containers from the nearby port, and is the first phase of a larger brick-and-mortar development in the area. "Because the neighborhood has grown up around the ballpark, we thought we should really offer a community space for all these neighbors that now live and work here," says Fran Weld, director of real estate for the Giants. Weld says the organization looked at many options for how to build a tempo- rary village, so that it can be moved from area to area as the permanent develop- ment takes shape. Shipping containers won out for their versatility. "They're very flexible and modular. You can think of it as one unit and you can expand and contract and play with the arrangement of that one unit again and again." Current retail tenants include The NorthFace outdoor gear and SFMade, a co-op of products from local manufactur- ers. The village only took six weeks to get up and running, and will stay in its current location for at least two years, Weld says. The site is also adding a weekly farmer's market using the infrastructure — such as restrooms and seating — that The Yard provides to the neighborhood. not A one-Size-fitS-All Solution Even those who use and fabricate ship- ping container retail shops admit that they are an alternative to brick-and-mortar stores, but not a replacement. Contain- ers also come with their own unique set of challenges. When designing The Yard at Mission Rock, Weld says the Giants' biggest prob- lem was finding out how to properly go through the permitting and approval pro- cess. Since the concept is relatively new, the legal procedures are murky. "There isn't a blueprint for that pro- cess in the same way there is for building The North Face shipping container store at The Yard at Mission Rock in San Francisco. Using multiple customized containers, The North Face sells its outdoors clothing and equipment in the temporary shipping container mall constructed outside AT&T Park.

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