Downtown Container Park to bridge gaps in downtown Las Vegas

Downtown Container Park in downtown Las Vegas will bring together an assortment of small boutiques, galleries, bars and eateries. But take note: this soon-to-open development by the Downtown Project, a community revitalization group funded by CEO Tony Hsieh, aims to become much, much more than a retail center.

Construction at Downtown Container Park

Workers are currently laying the walkways and putting in landscaping at Downtown Container Park

Downtown Container Park will be a sustainable attraction through repurposed resources. It will serve as an incubator for small businesses. It will offer a wide array of entertainment and educational programming. And, by appealing to all ages and demographics, it will foster a neighborhood spirit in downtown as well as create a connectedness with the greater Las Vegas valley.

This is a pretty ambitious agenda, but one that seems attainable and is sure to reap rewards for years to come.

Situated on the southeast corner of Fremont and Seventh streets, where a Motel 6 once stood, Downtown Container Park spans approximately 19,000 square feet. A mix of shipping containers and modular cubes form its perimeter.

“We’ve been working with a company called ConGlobal, which is one of the world’s largest shipping container businesses,” said Kim Schaefer, who handles communications for the Downtown Project, during a hard hat tour of the site earlier this month. “They’ve had experience doing this kind of construction at other locations, so they’ve been really great partners and advisors for us on how to use these things.”

The role of shipping containers evolved over time. Initially, the large metal boxes were going to be utilized in a less permanent way. However, as the scope of Downtown Container Park grew, so did the idea of “doing more with less.” Since tens of thousands of shipping containers are literally sitting around collecting dust, giving new life to some of them felt like a natural fit for the project.

A rendering of Downtown Container Park

A rendering of Downtown Container Park

Built in Las Vegas by Xtreme Manufacturing, the modular cubes, called “Xtreme cubes,” are also multifunctional. Each one is a steel-framed structure that measures 250 square feet. They can easily form a variety of portable configurations. Plus, if Downtown Container Park were ever dismantled, the cubes could be used for other things – such as a construction office or concession stand – and would never wind up in a landfill.

“There are 41 cubes and 30 repurposed shipping containers,” explained Schaefer while pointing out some of the clever ways they have been integrated throughout the development.

A recently installed three-story elevator boasts a shaft that has been fashioned from a shipping container. One of Schaefer’s favorite features at Downtown Container Park is the sign that stretches above the front entrance. Made out of a gray and orange shipping container, it also functions as a bridge. Guests can walk through and view all the action on Fremont Street from large window-like cutouts of the letters that spell “C-O-N-T-A-I-N-E-R P-A-R-K.”

Broadly speaking, the west side of Downtown Container Park will be filled with small galleries (like Lil’ Art Bodego and Blackbird Studios) while the east side will have a focus on fashion and accessories (such as the jewelry of Jessica Galindo).

Children's playground at Downtown Container Park

Downtown Container Park will have a one-of-a-kind interactive play area for kids

Dining and drinking outlets will be peppered throughout the premises. By the entrance, guests will discover a small coffeehouse named The Beatnik and a beer and sausage garden called Pork ‘n Beans. Nearby, Pinches Tacos will prepare authentic Mexican food from fresh vegetables, handmade tortillas and high-quality meats. Toward the back is The Boozery bar and Bin 702, which will offer wines on tap and light fare like paninis, salads and cheeses.

In addition, Ernie Loya, the beloved barbecue aficionado behind Big Ern’s BBQ, is launching his highly anticipated first storefront at Downtown Container Park. He’ll be serving traditional smoked meats made with his own rubs and sauces.

“That’s one of the great things about this project is getting to see people fulfill their dreams,” said Schaefer.

Downtown Container Park is 100 percent occupied, with tenants expected to begin moving in over the next week or so. Leases run for either six months or one year. The Downtown Project walked many of the tenants, especially those who are first-time owners, through the licensing process.

“This will be a community of small businesses so they can work together, lend support and learn from each other,” said Schaefer, adding that they expect some flux over time. “It will be a place to prove a concept and grow a business, so ideally many tenants will move on to bigger spaces.”

Along with shopping, art and food and beverage offerings, there’s even more in store at Downtown Container Park. Real train tracks have been laid for a boxcar and a caboose with monkeys on it that will house Bolt Barbers, a small barbershop.

A huge outdoor stage with a canopy, an audiovisual tower and an expanse of natural green grass for seating is positioned in front of the tracks.

Praying mantis at Downtown Container Park

A fire-breathing praying mantis sculpture sits at the entrance to Downtown Container Park

“The stage will be a place for live music, talks, ballet, community theater…you name it,” said Schaefer.

At the center of the development is a playground and interactive zone designed for children by Cre8Play. A shipping container has been converted into a 30-foot-tall treehouse with three different slides to ride down from. Kids can walk around on a ramp and a bridge. A NEOS Playworld System has also been installed. An electronic game, it will engage children by getting them to race around while hitting flashing lights.

Marking the entrance of Downtown Container Park is a 55-foot-tall steel praying mantis sculpture built atop a dump truck. Kirk Jellum and Kristen Ulmer made this mobile art piece for Burning Man, an annual art and self-expression festival held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. On special occasions, you’ll be able to see “The Mantis” in its full glory – shooting flames from its antennae.

Next to the sculpture sits a more mysterious endeavor called the Catalyst Dome. You might have noticed that it’s lit and changes colors at night. Not yet ready to reveal the Catalyst Dome’s purpose, Schaefer said that will be unveiled when the development officially opens.

Currently, plans are for Downtown Container Park to debut around Thanksgiving (the last week of November), with the grand opening to be held on Dec. 5.

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I’m a Las Vegas native. By profession, I write at Mostly about the city’s hotels, but on other topics – gaming and transportation – too. I really love staying at hotels. And the ones here are among the biggest and best in the world. Some key things I’ve learned: Resort fees are inescapable (frustrating but true), a friendly attitude at the front desk may score you a great view and over-the-top room amenities – bath butlers, Japanese tea service, menus with “intimate” items – do exist. What else should you know about me? Well, I’m comfortable at a blackjack table. And I like eating late-night pancakes in hotel coffee shops. A lot. Follow Renee on Google+.