Here at Unit Hire, we have a soft spot for businesses that rely on converted containers. We’ve spoken before about the unique ways that containers are being used around the world, as restaurants, shops and even homes. They are cheaper, more characterful alternatives to brick-and-mortar premises, and it seems like container-based businesses are only going to grow in popularity. They’re sturdy, cheap and (let’s be honest) a lot more eye-catching on the high street.
Because of this, some of the most innovative business ventures in the country are setting up shop in containers. From cutting-edge street food restaurants, to top quality bars and even budget hotels, container businesses are everywhere. However, if you’ve never visited one, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. It’s only a refurbished metal box, right? Think again. Read on and discover some of the most intriguing container conversions that you can visit right now.
Boxpark – the first container mall in the world. Back in 2011, the concept of basing your business in a container conversion was still a very novel one as the hipsters had yet to catch on. At the time, it felt as though only overpriced burger vans at festivals were getting in on the hype. When Roger Wade – Boxpark’s founder – set up an entire container mall, however, things began to change. An ardent supporter of independent businesses, Wade has ensured that the two Boxparks are now home to over 70 shops, bars and restaurants in Shoreditch and Croydon. A third location is due to open in Wembley in late 2018.
The Boxparks have been wildly successful, giving small, independent retailers a place to kickstart their brand. On top of that, the bars and restaurants have turned the areas into nightlife hotspots. Both locations play host to a number of events throughout the year, attracting a variety of acts and artists and bringing in crowds from around London.
The Croydon Boxpark has had a particularly noticeable impact on the area in the way that it has brought new life to a place usually forgotten by the standard London crowds. However, the Boxpark has managed to bring a slice of Central London south of the river. With craft beer bars, underground streetwear retailers and a dedicated ‘Donutterie’, the Boxpark has given Croydon a much needed hit of revitalising cool. Whether you’re looking for great food, great drinks or just good times, the Boxparks are worth a visit. As the original container mall, Boxpark Shoreditch deserves a visit from anybody interested in container conversion architecture. You’ll never forget your first visit to a Boxpark and you’ll be yearning to go back again and again.
Pop Brixton is a container park similar in purpose to the Boxparks but with a definite focus on helping the local area. Priding themselves on having regenerated an area of disused land into a successful retail centre, Pop Brixton’s organisers clearly love sticking to their roots.
The businesses that fill Pop Brixton’s many containers are entirely independent, with 70% of the business owners coming from the Brixton and Lambeth areas. As such, a visit to Pop Brixton gives you a real community experience. This is only increased when you notice the ‘Pop Farms’ spread across the site. These small urban farms are designed to help local people develop an interest in farming while strengthening community bonds. You’ll find these farms filled with vegetables, herbs and decorative plants used by business owners, visitors and residents alike.
In Pop Brixton, containers have become much more than simply venues for bars, restaurants and shops. Instead, the containers form a definite hub for the community. With everything from kids clubs to Tai Chi to club nights going on throughout the year, Pop truly has something for everyone. The project has gone a long way towards regenerating Brixton – an area that historically found itself somewhat left behind. Considering that half of the business owners in the container park are first-time entrepreneurs, it’s clear that Brixton’s youth are spearheading local change in a fantastic way. So get out there, visit Pop Brixton and support some of the country’s best up-and-coming businesses while eyeing up their intriguing adaptations of container units.
Set up with similar aims in mind as those held by Boxpark and Pop Brixton, CARGO has seen a number of independent businesses set up in its converted containers since it opened in 2016. However, the organisers of this Bristol container park have very high aspirations for their project.
Located on the city’s Wapping Wharf, CARGO is intended to become a new retail quarter, entirely based around converted shipping containers. It’s a lofty aim, but with a high calibre of independent retailers it’s fast becoming a reality. Once again, containers are being used to rejuvenate areas that had previously been allowed to deteriorate. It’s an interesting example of the exciting potential that shipping containers hold for urban spaces and local communities.
When it comes to why you should visit, the food is probably the biggest draw of CARGO. The project’s containers are filled with craft breweries, cheese shops, cafés and more, with independent restaurants abound. In fact, CARGO was named as one of the best places to eat out in the UK. Food critics’ opinions aside, the sheer wealth of cuisine on offer should be enough to lure you in to this West Country wildcard of shopping and eating.
This one may not be as appealing as the food and drink meccas that many container-based retail parks have become, but hear us out. We wouldn’t recommend heading to the TraffordCity Holiday Inn Express just to admire the innovative architecture, but if you have a chance to stay there it could be worth it. Especially if you’re interested in the future of container-based design.
Easily the most ambitious container project on our list, this Holiday Inn Express on the outskirts of Manchester is one of the first modular hotels to be built by a major company. The hotel’s 220 rooms are constructed out of a number of shipping containers, but you wouldn’t be able to tell. Covered with exterior walls that disguise it as any normal hotel, these containers have been used purely for cost-effectiveness – remember what we said about such units being affordable? Construction of a modular hotel is quicker and cheaper than any traditional bricks and mortar build would be, so perhaps this could herald a new mainstream of container building.
As we’ve shown, container architecture is continually growing, so if we see more hotels and other major buildings being constructed with containers it could certainly become a normality. While many of the container projects you can visit today are proud to display their quirky design features, Holiday Inn have disguised their TraffordCity location to look like any other hotel. As such, the use of containers shouldn’t be seen as a gimmick. Instead, they were used as legitimate, cheaper alternatives to traditional building techniques. If you’re in Manchester, pay a visit to the Holiday Inn: you might be seeing history in the making!
While you might not be looking to build your own hotel, if you’re looking for a unique, innovative premises for your new business, contact us today! The Unit Hire team will be happy to help you convert a container into an ideal home for your business.