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South Side Project Latest to Use Shipping Containers for Housing

Brent Warren Brent Warren South Side Project Latest to Use Shipping Containers for HousingPhoto by Brent Warren.
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Brett zumFelde and Naomi Sakuma want to turn a small vacant lot on the South Side into the next shipping container development in Columbus.

The couple closed on the 34 by 110-foot parcel in April and plan to place two shipping containers on it, each providing about 320 square feet of living space. A deck in between the two structures will lead to small porches in front and private patios in the back. Plans also call for a rear carport topped with solar panels, and a third shipping container in between the parking spaces that would be used for storage.

If all goes well, they’d love to do more in other neighborhoods, but for now this is purely a nights and weekends kind of project. The two have been working to beautify the front part of the lot in their spare time while they work on plans for the container buildings (each has a full time job).

“We wanted to let the neighborhood know that we’re doing something with the property, so we’ve just been going down every weekend and working on it,” said zumFelde. “Some of the neighbors were very skeptical at first, but they can see we’re putting in the time…people embrace you once they realize your true intentions.”

A family member who is an architect, with Rotroff Studio in Wauseon, will be designing the units. The shipping containers will be purchased from Lockbourne-based Ag Container Transport — they’ll be buying one-trip containers, as opposed to new containers or used ones that have travelled back and forth overseas multiple times and may have been sprayed with chemicals or pesticides.

Each container will be placed on six concrete piers, which will bring them off the ground to match the height of neighboring houses. The goal is to place the containers on the piers in the spring, and to rent them out when they are finished.

Plans for the interior spaces will take their cues from the popular tiny house movement.

“We’d like to steal some of those ideas,” said zumFelde, “Those houses are about 100 square feet less than what we have to work with…the idea is really to study how you live and move in a space, and to make it efficient.”

As home-owners in North Linden, zumFelde and Sakuma looked into building in that neighborhood but eventually decided to pursue the lot at 577 East Whittier Street after receiving an enthusiastic response to the idea from the Ganther’s Place Civic Association.

The parcel they purchased was not a Land Bank property, but the couple is interested in buying vacant city or county-owned parcels in the future, once they’ve established a track record with the first project.

And, they’d be happy to see others take the idea and run with it.

“Whittier gets a lot of traffic, so driving by our lot, people will see it,” said zumFelde, “They should feel free to copy what we’re doing…that would be great to see these popping up other places!”

For more information, visit www.econtainerz.com.

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