It appears that Detroit has some brightly colored company in the world of multifamily housing project constructed from retired shipping containers.
As reported the Houston Chronicle's energy-centric offshot FuelFix.com, San Antonio-based retail developer David Monnich is using old freight containers to help remedy the growing housing (and not to mention hotel) shortage brought on by the boom in oil- and gas-rich Eagle Ford Shale region. The project will bring “the stuff of high-end design magazines” — and of vacant lots under Hong Kong overpasses — to a decidedly not “urban and hip” South Texas outpost named Encinal (population 559 as of 2010). According to Wikipedia, Encinal is noted for very large rattlesnakes and not much else. Geographically, the town is described as being “between Laredo and Cotulla off of Interstate 35.” In other words, it’s about a 30-minute drive to the nearest Walmart or the Mexican border.
Monnich has already started the shipping container apartment complex in Encinal. Seven units have already been installed and are currently being finished; a couple dozen more will be installed by the end of summer. Monnich’s development will ultimately include 70 units, mostly 840-square-foot, two-bedroom apartments each created from pairs of upcycled containers that are sourced from Houston and modified in a San Antonio factory. Mike McGlone and Helen Pierce of San Antonio-based Alamo Architects, an award-winning firm that’s behind a few notable adaptive reuse and urban infill projects, worked with Monnich to create the conceptual design of the complex. Rental prices have yet to be announced. (You can see a video about the project below.)
And if there’s one thing that Monnich wants to make clear, it’s that the project in Encinal will not serve as temporary corporate housing — an oil patch “man camp,” if you will — for the tens of thousands of oil field workers that have descended on the fracking-heavy region following the shale boom. He hopes that families will move on in and stick around long after the projected 16-year lifespan of the Eagle Ford Shale ends: “We’ve lived through this incredible economic growth and what comes with that. There hasn’t been new housing there for years. Plenty of people will be living there after this is over. There’s a demand for families and people, and not necessarily just for the workforce.”
Beyond the project in Encinal, Monnich plans to start an online business selling or leasing modified cargo container homes later this year.
I should also probably mention another shipping container apartment project that’s been in the news this week and it’s about as far away from the oil fields of South Texas that you can get: Williamsburg, Brooklyn.