Fayette County

Shipping containers to become affordable housing on Lexington’s north side

A shipping container was lowered by crane onto a foundation on York Street in Lexington Wednesday as part of the LuigART Makers project, which will provide live-work spaces that resemble the area's historic shotgun houses.
A shipping container was lowered by crane onto a foundation on York Street in Lexington Wednesday as part of the LuigART Makers project, which will provide live-work spaces that resemble the area's historic shotgun houses. Herald-Leader

The red steel shipping container was once used to transport toothbrushes and bras.

By May, it and another container will be transformed into a one bedroom, one-bathroom, 640-square-foot home that will be part of a new live-work community on York Street spearheaded by the North Limestone Community Development Corp.

On Wednesday, a crane hoisted the red shipping container and then a blue one onto a concrete block foundation. Welders secured the 8,490-pound containers to the foundation.

John Bell of ReContained, a Lexington-based firm that specializes in transforming shipping containers into homes, said it was the first one the company has done in Fayette County.

Repurposing shipping containers for housing and office space has been popular in Europe and other parts of the United States for more than a decade. In Amsterdam, shipping containers were used to create student housing for a university. In London, a BBC studio was built entirely of stacked steel containers in 2012.

But reusing shipping containers to build affordable housing is still new in Kentucky. It took two plan reviews by city officials and jumping through various hoops and hurdles to get the green light for the container home, Bell said.

The two containers, found at a port in Louisville, were delivered last month. ReContained then dug out the foundation. Now that the containers are in place, work on the interior will begin, said Jason Clarkston, project manager for ReContained. Clarkston designed the site and the home’s interior and exterior. ReContained is an offshoot of Emerge Contracting.

Re-purposing old shipping containers for housing and office space has been popular in Europe and other parts of the United States for more than a decade. In Amsterdam, shipping containers were used to create student housing for a university. In London, a BBC Studio was built entirely of stacked steel containers in 2012.

Because steel conducts heat, the interior walls will be well insulated. Windows will be added to the exteriors, and the containers —which were placed side-by-side — will be joined to become a one-bedroom home. The exterior of the two containers will not be altered or repainted. A front porch and a gabled roof will be added that will match a new shotgun house adjacent to the container house, Clarkston said.

Shipping containers are built to withstand snow, rain and nature’s other whims, which make them ideal for housing, Clarkston said.

“It’s not going anywhere,” he said. “And it won’t catch fire.”

Kris Nonn, director of design and construction for North Limestone Community Development Corp., said the group decided to include the shipping containers as part of its affordable housing project in part to show that such housing doesn’t have to be boring or mundane.

Plus, York Street once was a hub for working-class people employed by nearby industries. The building material is a nod to the area’s past, Nonn said.

“You are taking an artifact of industry, and it will become affordable housing in a working-class neighborhood,” Nonn said. “It will look like the shotgun houses that were common in this area.”

In addition to the container home, Crawford Builders will erect five other houses on York Street during the next several months. All six homes probably will be on the market by May and will be priced at less than $80,000, Nonn said. One-bedroom homes probably will be sold for about $75,000. Two-bedroom homes will be sold for $78,000. The six homes are part of a new live-work community where homeowners —artists and craftsmen — can live and sell art or other goods out of their homes. Called the LuigART Makers project, it is the first live-work community in Lexington.

The project is funded through an assortment of grants from the the city’s affordable housing fund, the Knight Foundation, and ArtPlace America. The homes will come with deed restrictions so only those who make up to 80 percent of Fayette County’s median income may own the property for 15 years. A single person may make up to $38,200 a year to qualify for the program. A family of four may make up to $54,550. The deed restrictions will ensure the homes aren’t sold and resold, driving up prices and pushing working-class people out of the neighborhood, Nonn said.

On Wednesday, after the shipping containers were placed on the foundation and the welders got to work securing them, Clarkston raised his arms in the air.

“This has been a year in the making,” he said.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall

  Comments