A St. Petersburg start-up plans to turn shipping containers into workforce and affordable housing.
Path Communities wants to build 31 small apartments, 320 square feet each, using 40-foot shipping containers made from recyclable materials. The development would be located at what is currently vacant land at 1700 Burlington Ave.
The units potentially would rent for between $1,000 and $1,300 a month, said Brandon Casten, who is partnering with Scott Brien in Path Communities.
“Our passion is looking at the future of apartment complexes and buildings,” Casten said. “The trends you see, especially in Europe and some of the bigger cities across the country, are leaning towards microunits. It’s not just because people can’t afford a 2,000-square-foot apartment. It’s because people want to live in a more minimalistic fashion … We think it’s one of those trends that will take off, but we have to prove it.”
The Path Communities’ project would feature a pair of two-story buildings that from the street side would look like a modern apartment complex, Casten said.
“With a small space, the primary amenity is the outdoor space on the edge of Booker Creek. We’re going to use a permaculture design artist to put it all together. We’re hoping that creates a sense of community among the residents,” he said.
The location, just outside the Grand Central District, is within a few blocks of Tropicana Field, where a planned redevelopment will occur over the next several years. “You can make an argument that’s going to be the new city center of St. Pete,” Casten said.
Three other projects, multi-story buildings with “tiny” apartments, are planned in the 1700 blocks of 1st Avenue North and 2nd Avenue North.
The use of shipping containers in modular buildings provides cost savings that make the living units affordable, while still being profitable for investors without any public funding, Casten said. Path Communities’ proposed development has investor backing but does not yet have bank funding, Casten said.
Carbon Design & Architecture in St. Petersburg and Sarasota has designed the project, and the general contractor is Stress Free Construction in Tampa, led by Jonathan “Buck” Sands. The shipping containers are being manufactured by Innovar Structures, a Sarasota company with a factory in Wauchula.
Path Communities will file for permits in the next couple of weeks and hopes the apartments can be occupied by the fall.
“The beauty of modular construction is you can do the site work while the units themselves are being built in the factory,” Casten said.
The company is asking the city to allow a structural engineer who is an expert in the space inspect the units and file an affidavit, saying they meet city building codes. Having the inspection done in the factory speeds the process, Casten said.
It’s the first project for Path Communities, although Casten said both he and Brien have experience in the multifamily space.
“We could have gone the route of trying to buy out an old apartment complex and reposition it, but we weren’t passionate about that. We want to do something different,” Casten said. “Scott and I only wanted to do this if it is something that’s fun and we can bring something different to St. Pete.”