Trumbull Squared condos another take on the trend

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Just north of I-75 off Trumbull near Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, a three-story building made from shipping containers reaches into the sky.

The building may look boxy on the outside – red steel shipping containers are now balconies – but inside rounded walls and ceiling cutouts add a softness to the model unit called Trumbull Squared.

The rounded walls were designed to add an organic feel to the space, says Kelley Singler Fowler, vice president of operations for Three Squared Inc. which built the model unit as Phase One of an ambitious multiphase project in the city to build condominiums from old shipping containers.

Still, portions of the old steel containers peek through, which was intentional, says Fowler. On the second floor, a circle cut into the drywall ceiling reveals steel underneath.

“There are specific things we left so people can see them and say, ‘Here is one container, here’s another,” says Fowler. “They want to touch it, feel it.”

Three Squared broke ground last year on Trumbull Squared, its three-story model unit. Now open by appointment only, the model unit, which has two units made from six 40-foot shipping containers, will open its doors for several open houses and then offer regular hours once final inspections are complete.

“We’ll host a series of open houses,” likely first for public officials, community leaders and first responders, and then the general public, says Fowler. “One of things we’ve learned through this process is that everyone is curious, everyone wants to know.”

Trumbull Squared is the first of a three-phase project by Three Squared that will include another eight-unit condominium development at Kaline and Rosa Parks in Corktown and a 26 or 28-unit development in Detroit’s Woodbridge community. Prices will start at $147,000 for a one-bedroom unit and $315,000 for a two-story two-bedroom unit.

Financing has slowed down the project along with other factors. Fowler says there’s also been a learning curve with things like determining fire safety ratings and building codes since there are no other projects like it in Detroit.

“We are writing new code,” she says.

Trumbull Squared’s first first unit spans 1,700 square feet on two floors and has two bedrooms and 21/2 baths. The second unit on the third floor has a more industrial-look with exposed steel and sharp corners.

Local interior designer Kate Cutshall staged the 700-square-foot third floor unit with metal and wood shelving, a mid-century inspired sofa, and funky light fixtures. On the stairwell wall is custom wallpaper made by the Detroit Wallpaper Co. from blueprints from the model unit.

While shipping container living might not be for everyone, Fowler says the advantage is its very fast to construct and energy-efficient. And despite what some may think, shipping container condos don’t have to boxy and tight.

“It can actually be wide and airy,” Fowler says.

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