The Box Office: Recycled Shipping Containers Become Office Space

If you want to see a shining, large-scale example of “reduce, reuse, recycle,” look no further than Providence, R.I.’s Olneyville neighborhood, which has long been home to many of the city’s artists, musicians and creative thinkers.

Olneyville is the kind of hardscrabble place that city planners and realtors are forever trying to gentrify with a healthy dose of demolition, while longtime residents and newly-arriving artists form uneasy alliances in opposition. Olneyville’s spirit was epitomized by institutions such as Fort Thunder, where a group of artists and musicians took a 19th-century mill and, all-too-briefly in the 1990s, turned it into a world-renowned center of activity and community. Tellingly, the mill that housed Fort Thunder was razed to make way for yet another supermarket, which closed two years ago, leaving behind the usual “dead mall” vibe in an already struggling neighborhood where nearly half of the residents live below the poverty level.

Optimistically, then, we can report that it is in Olneyville that a remarkable three-story office space is being constructed out of 32 recycled shipping containers. In late May, the project’s official “groundbreaking” took place: A single tree was planted on the site of the former lumber company where the 10,000-sqaure-foot, cheekily-named Box Office will reside.

If you’ve ever lived in or flew over a port city like Providence, Philadelphia or Baltimore, you’ve seen shipping containers just sitting there, stacked up for acres. I’ve often wondered where these things might end up, if and when they are ever broken or taken out of service.

Now at least I know where 32 of them are going. Here’s hoping The Box Office will be the beginning of a trend in office construction. Check out The Box Office web site to see just how cool this project is.

Posted by Joe Paone

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