Shipping container model opens Friday for sneak peek

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
  • Three Squared will open model unit for tours and to show construction
  • Model unit will be used to sell units in two other shipping container projects in Detroit

It was one thing for John Wright of Pleasant Ridge to read about Detroit's first shipping container development, the one made of recycled steel shipping containers. Wright wanted to see it.

So after volunteering at a Detroit soup kitchen Thursday with friends John Fagan and Karen Sayles of Royal Oak, the threesome drove to Trumbull Squared at Trumbull and Kaline, the Corktown model unit being built by Three Squared Inc., a commercial, residential and mixed use property development company.

"These just make so much sense," says Wright, peering through a fence as workers furiously spread mulch, installed light fixtures and painted cement board siding. "You see all these containers on Springwells (in Detroit), why couldn't they be used for something else?"

They can — and Three Squared is. That's what they'll show the public at a highly anticipated sneak peek from 3-6 p.m. Friday at Trumbull Squared. There will be tours, entertainment, food trucks and free parking. Reservations are encouraged by calling (313) 658-6400.

The three-story model unit still has a long ways to go until it's finished — crews are aiming to complete it later this summer — but prospective buyers and visitors will be able to tour two unfinished units, see the layout and step outside on the balconies — 20-foot shipping containers painted a deep red. Part of the roughness is intentional to show the construction, says Jan Dijkers, associate broker with The Loft Warehouse, the listing broker.

"(But) we've had so much interest from the public and potential buyers that we wanted to get people in as quickly as possible," says Dijkers.

What piques most folks' interest is simply "how do you use these?" says architect Steven C. Flum of Steven C. Flum Inc. in Hamtramck.

"How do you put them together? How do you make them fit?" says Flum. "And how do you make them look residential and warm, yet have kind of that hard edge?"

The 2,800-square-foot model unit features an open concept inside, but exposed steel. It includes two units to show prospective buyers: a two-story, two-bedroom unit and a one-bedroom unit on the third floor.

A large vinyl decal of a Corktown photograph covers one wall on the first floor. Curving walls and other architectural features were deliberately designed to show a softness even in an old shipping container, says Dijkers.

The exterior is largely covered with fiber cement board siding, topped with a barrier paint colored a deep green. The barrier paint helps mitigate thermal transmission so the steel containers won't sweat with temperature changes, which could cause problems, says Flum.

Trumbull Squared will be the starting point for selling units for Three Squared's two other Detroit projects, Rosa Parks Squared in Woodbridge and Kaline Squared in Corktown. Rosa Parks Squared units will sell from the low $200,000s to $350,000 and Kaline Squared units will sell for $150,000 to $250,000. Construction on both projects should start later this year.

Flum says the appeal of shipping container living is that it can be done quickly and affordably and is energy efficient. And while it may have its critics "so did Henry Ford and the Model T," he says.

There are thousands of people who want condos in Detroit right now and "there's no available inventory," says Dijkers.

"With the demand for housing, they're waiting for something like this," she says. "Add to that that it's completely new, modern-looking and it really appeals to the buyer wanting to get into the Detroit market right now."