London's Boxpark: Trendy short-term retail space

When the Dekalb Market opened in Brooklyn last Summer, the use of recycled shipping containers gave potential tenants a sense of stability: developers didn’t have long-term access to the land, so businesses could open shop in a structure that could be easily moved if that access dried up. Apparently, such flexibility has universal appeal (especially in a down economy): London’s new Boxpark development is also constructed from shipping containers, and designed to make relatively short-term use of land that might find buyers or other developers once the economy picks back up.

Boxpark opened earlier this month – a few months behind schedule, and a few retailers short of a packed house. It’s also fallen short of its goal to focus strictly on unique, local retailers: Levi’s, Puma, and Calvin Klein sit alongside shops that visitors will only find at the Boxpark. With typical retail development, it would be tempting to focus on these shortcomings; in this case, however, they’re overshadowed by the developers’ creation of not only a new aesthetic (which matches nicely with Boxpark’s industrial surroundings), but also a new approach to building for retail development. Rather than building for the long term, this Lego-like approach makes sense for the proposed five-year lifespan of the development. The structures are ready to move to a new location, or for rehabilitation into other types of spaces.

But that’s not all going on with shipping containers recently:

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Image credit: wirewiping at Flickr under a Creative Commons license