A new concept in apartment living is coming closer to reality in Tallahassee’s All Saints district. The Freight Yard development is using cast-off shipping containers as the essential building blocks for the construction.
The driving force behind the Freight Yard concept is Paul Bradshaw. Besides being the project’s chief investor, he’s the founder of the Southern Strategy lobbying firm. His wife, Sally Bradshaw, is a co-developer with him on several projects. She also owns Midtown Reader and, in full disclosure, sits on WFSU Public Media’s Community Council. Paul Bradshaw said the Freight Yard isn’t his first experience with shipping containers as a construction technique.
"I live on a farm in Gadsden County and we had to build some practical buildings for the operation of the farm and so we started playing with shipping container construction," he recalled. "You really can't find a cheaper, weatherproof envelope to buy and operate out of that a used shipping container."
For one thing, explained Bradshaw, they’re nearly indestructible.
"A shipping container is designed to take delicate goods, put them on the open deck of a ship and run them through a typhoon multiple times and if they fall in the ocean they float for weeks. These things are amazing structures and they're built to support a half-million pounds on top of themselves."
Secondly, shipping containers are cheap. Even a large 40-footer in nearly new condition can be had for less than $6,000. Using them as the basis for construction, said Bradshaw, meant he could charge less for rent than smaller traditional accommodations found on nearby Gaines Street.
"In the Collegetown area now, the standard 1-bedroom, 1-bath is about 500 square feet. It's going for $1,000 or a little more per month, which means it's going for a bit more than $2.00 per square foot per month. We're keeping ours for $1,400 per month, 740 square feet. That should be costing you about $1,500. We're renting them for $1,400, but we're also throwing in all the utilities, wi-fi, things like that. So the reality is you're paying significantly less on a per-square-foot basis for ours then you're paying for similar apartments in the Collegetown area."
Beyond the relative affordability, Bradshaw said the Freight Yard will be built with sustainability and energy-efficiency as a priority. Throw in that load of other amenities and a dynamic location, and he said it should appeal mightily to millennial and and Generation Z tenants.
"They like an urban setting," he pointed out. "They care about climate change and want to align their living arrangements with those values. They like a walkable neighborhood, craft beer, good coffee, fast wi-fi and the idea of paying down student debt by living in cost-effective housing. And so this project tries to tick off all those boxes."
Bradshaw says he’s had a long and fond connection with the All Saints/Railroad Square area. He plans to keep and spruce up the existing buildings and atmosphere around the Freight Yard construction site.
"With the hope that what is special about that area is retained in the area. For example, we have All-Saints Cafe and Serenity Cafe there now and it would be nice to keep them on-site. They do a great job. And we're bringing in street artists to do a lot of murals in the area. So if you like street art, you should pay attention over the next few months."
Also in the next few months, there will be a chance to actually see the inside of a Freight Yard apartment. "So we have 12 luxury units and they're coming on-line right now," Bradshaw said. "Then we have 20 micro units and they'll be on-line next year. We're building out a model unit right now so people can look and touch and see it looks like. And that should be available to see in the next 6 to 8 weeks. But then the 20 units should be habitable next year."
The start of what ultimately could become a routine construction technique, using the rugged metal shells that are used to carry consumer goods all over the world.