Florida plaza made out of shipping containers could feature restaurants, shops, dog park

Have you ever eaten lunch in a shipping container? If not, you soon might have the opportunity in Delray Beach.

City officials are planning an outdoor plaza out of shipping containers that could feature restaurants, shops, a dog park and a stage for musical events. The plaza would be at 800 W. Atlantic Ave. on a long-vacant lot just east of Interstate 95.

The venue would feature 15 to 28 shipping containers, which would be split between 20- and 40-foot boxes.

CPZ Architects, based in Plantation, is scheduled to present several design options to the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency on Thursday. No timeframe has been listed for when the venue could open.

Using shipping containers for restaurants, and even homes, has increased in popularity over the years. In South Florida, shipping container homes have popped up in places such as Davie and Jupiter as the homes are typically more affordable than traditional houses.

City Commissioner Adam Frankel said he was attracted to the idea of shipping containers after seeing similar concepts in Las Vegas and Wynwood, and believes it could bring a different, unique vibe to Delray Beach.

According to design plans, the venue could also feature playgrounds, selfie stations and vertical structures.

Orlando has a similar venue, Boxi Park, which launched in 2018. Delray Beach officials suggested it be used as a template, according to city documents.

In addition to the distinctive visual appearance, Frankel said the lower costs for repurposed shipping containers makes sense from a financial perspective.

“It’s an easy and affordable way for a merchant or another business that doesn’t have the capital to build from the ground up to actually go, start a business and be successful, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Frankel said.

The proposed venue is the city’s latest attempt to revitalize the stretch of Atlantic Avenue between I-95 and Swinton Avenue, which has paled in comparison to the section west of Swinton, which is lined with dozens of popular bars and restaurants.

The city has been working to redevelop West Atlantic and its surrounding neighborhoods for more than 20 years. In 1996, officials created the redevelopment coalition, a nonprofit organization designed to oversee the street’s transformation plans. A Fairfield Inn & Suites opened in January 2015, the street’s last big project.

“It’s the entry to our city,” Frankel said. “We consider the downtown [to be] from I-95 to the beach. However, there’s no doubt that the focus has been [East of Swinton], but we’ve really tried to focus investment in the area between I-95 and Swinton on Atlantic.”