Shipping Container Apartment Community Planned For Downtown's Cathedral District

An apartment community of shipping containers has been designed for the Cathedral District area of Downtown.

WJCT News partner the Jacksonville Daily Record reports JWB Real Estate Capital submitted plans to the Downtown Development Review Board for the Ashley Street Container Project at 412 E. Ashley St.

The 18 studio units, stacked three floors, will rent for $550 a month.

“We are really doing the project because we would like to bring a groundbreaking concept like this to Downtown Jax, and hoping others will see it and continue to think outside the box to develop Downtown,” said Jacksonville-based JWB Real Estate Capital President Alex Sifakis.

He estimates the project at $1.2 million.

Each 320-square-foot unit – 8 by 40 feet – would have a refrigerator, two-burner cooktop, microwave and under-counter washer-dryer.

Elevations of the Ashley Street Container Project.
Credit Via Jacksonville Daily Record

There is space for a bed, sofa and two-seat counter. Plans indicate a bathroom with a toilet, shower and sink. Storage is designed in cabinets and a walk-in closet.

Three to four windows are on one side and a window or a balcony and sliding glass door will be on the end. Sifakis said the balconies will be created by opening the doors on the end of the container, fixing them in place and adding a floor and railing.

Fisher Koppenhafer is the architect.

“The most interesting thing about it is that it will be totally modular,” Sifakis said.

A 3-D rendering of the project.
Credit Via Jacksonville Daily Record

He said more than 30 percent of the site will be green space or common area with pavers. A pergola is planned in the front and there potentially will be a gas fire pit in the back.

Sifakis said that while it isn't shown in the DDRB submission, his group intends for Art Republic to paint a mural on the side of the units facing Liberty Street.

Sifakis said the units and staircases will be able to be removed from the lot and relocated as needed.

Sifakis said the group would develop the project with used containers, which are available from vendors around Jacksonville. “There are plenty since we a port city,” he said.

Sifakis said containers cost about $2,500 used and $4,000 new.

The project is planned for the Cathedral District of Downtown Jacksonville.
Credit Via Jacksonville Daily Record

There will be no income cap for renters, he said. He doesn't expect more than two people would live in each unit.

Sifakis said the units will be built off-site and lifted into place. On-site construction could take two-three months, he said.

“We have already started building a model unit,” he said.

Sifakis said units could be ready in five to eight months, barring delays, and JWB Capital is accepting interest from those interested in renting a unit.

The project is scheduled to be presented May 9 to the DDRB.

Sifakis also intends to seek a Recapture Enhanced Value grant from the Downtown Investment Authority but did not know when.

“This isn’t a project we are doing for the money, returns will be less than 6% on it,” he said in an email.

The 0.13-acre vacant property is along East Ashley Street between Washington and Liberty streets. JWB Capital, through Hoose A LLC, bought the property Feb. 15 for $52,500.

JWB acquired the property from Orlando Realty Group LLC, which paid $30,100 in April 2017 for the tax deed on the site.

The city defines the Cathedral District as the area bounded by State, Ocean and Monroe streets and Hogans Creek.

JWB buys, develops, rents, sells and manages properties for its portfolio and for investors. It focuses on infill properties, especially single lots among developed and urban areas.

Sifakis said JWB owns close to 900 infill lots.

He said other cities have built projects using shipping containers, but he hasn't seen any in the U.S. with containers converted into individual 320-square-foot units and used as modular construction.

He said there have been such projects in Europe.