Creative Commercial Center Boxes Up Bronzeville’s Community Development

Fresh market fruits and vegetables

Residents of Chicago’s Bronzeville district will now have easier access to fresh produce and other goods thanks to a new community shopping center. But this commercial hub isn’t like other stores in Chicago.

It’s made out of shipping containers.

Chicago Magazine reports that the shopping center, called “Boxville,” opened this week and is home to a grocery center called Produce Box, a small boutique, and a bike repair shop. The project was created by developer Bernard Loyd, who has worked to bring local investment to Bronzeville.

“The idea was always to have a community plaza with vending opportunities, something informal,” Loyd said in a statement to Chicago Magazine. “We’re trying to create a progression of spaces.”

The shipping containers look like “four giant metal Lego pieces,” according to Chicago Magazine. These structures are highly durable, lasting an average of 25 years and requiring minimal maintenance. These properties have made them a popular option in recent years for popup commercial centers.

Mashable reports that Produce Box is funded by Chicago non-profit Green City Market, bringing affordable produce and Italian ice to local residents. Previously, Bronzeville’s produce choices were greatly limited, Green City Market’s operations manager, Kathleen Williams, said in a statement to Mashable.

“Produce Box will impact the community by providing a space for neighborhood residents to gather around food,” she said. “Parts of the Bronzeville community have not had access to produce in two generations and Green City Market will work to change this by bringing produce on a weekly basis in addition to food demos.”

Commerce isn’t the only industry using shipping containers to spark affordable community development. These containers are mainly made out of steel, and four of the most common metals used in the construction industry are carbon steel, aluminum steel, copper, and stainless steel. With the construction durability of these products, they have become a key resource for new affordable housing projects around the county.

In Chicago specifically, Boxville is building off of another $9 million developmnent effort headed by Loyd, who was once a Bronzeville resident. This project, called Bronzeville Cookin’, is a dining center and business incubator, according to Chicago Magazine. Lloyd said in a statement that the city of Chicago has pledged $3 million to the project.

Michelle E.L. Merritt, owner of Aplomb, Boxville’s boutique, said in a statement to <emthat Loyd’s projects are not being implemented as top-down efforts for capital gain. Rather, he is meeting the community where they are to build up one of Chicago’s main cultural hubs.

“He’s not landing on the community, but really engaging the community in the effort,” she said.