Brooklyn's Dekalb Market: a flexible business district built from shipping containers

Builders and architects have fallen in love with shipping containers and are using them to design and build everything from office buildings to prison space. It makes sense: they come in standard sizes (a bit like Legos), they’re sturdy, mobile, and readily available. This also makes shipping containers ideal for temporary developments, and a new open-air market in Brooklyn is putting that notion to the test.

The Dekalb Market opened in late July and features a range of small businesses housed in shipping containers, which the business owners were able to repurpose to their needs. Created on land that’s currently in development limbo, the market features “an incubator farm, food market, events, a performance venue and a collection of eateries and work-sell spaces.” Each vendor signed a one-year lease, but should the construction plans slated for the property move forward it’s easy to imagine that the market itself could be relocated pretty efficiently.

Kaid Benfield at NRDC’s Switchboard blog ties the Dekalb Market to the concept of “tactical urbanism.” Think of it as “playing” with urban spaces rather than committing to permanent structures that may or may not succeed. It strikes me as a really innovative approach to establishing “brick and mortar” businesses. Typically, if you pick a bad location for you storefront you’re out of luck, but this model allows for a measure of location independence for businesses that still need to have a physical presence. And if the potential for mobility becomes the hallmark of this model, it’s reasonable to believe that shipping container businesses may start looking into off-grid energy sources, rainwater collection and maybe even composting toilets as ways to maintain that option to move easily.

Want to see more of the market? Inhabitat (as always) has a great photo gallery.


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Image: Robicelli’s, one of the tenants in the Dekalb Market.

Credit: Rachel from Cupcakes Take the Cake at Flickr under a Creative Commons license