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Shipping containers could become low-cost apartments in St. Pete

Margie Manning

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A rendering of the apartments planned by Path Communities. (Renderings courtesy of Carbon Design & Architecture)

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.”

Renderings of the apartments planned by Path Communities.

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.”

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27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Avatar

    LeAnne Gerhart

    February 17, 2021at4:36 pm

    What a great article! This is so exciting for St.Pete. I hope there will be an open house upon completion!
    No doubt they will be rented before their done. Thanks for the details!

  2. Avatar

    Karen Kirkpatrick

    February 17, 2021at7:34 pm

    40 ft. is 320 sq. feet. $1000-$1325? 😂I think not. The market is already glutted with new housing and more going up at the same price for a larger studio or one-bedroom. You can also room-share in a fully furnished home with a pool for about $850. This is an insane idea for the price. No one wants to live near downtown St. Petersburg this badly.

  3. Avatar

    Rob Sanchez

    February 17, 2021at7:41 pm

    This sounds great, though I’m not sure $1000-1300 is that much cheaper than existing units that are that small?

  4. Avatar

    Jim Stancampiano

    February 17, 2021at7:43 pm

    Great idea! My wife and I watch the container projects shows on discovery and wonder why they haven’t done something like this down here. Perfect for St. Pete!

  5. Avatar

    Angry regular Joe

    February 17, 2021at9:26 pm

    Affordable for who exactly?not your cashier,server, bartender,bus driver,Lyft or Uber driver,cook,teacher or janitor.. I guess we are only welcome if we find 3 roommates for a place this small so we can pay the rent otherwise get out but please make sure you find a way to work because we need you ,just don’t want you living here

  6. Avatar

    Stacy

    February 17, 2021at10:05 pm

    320 square feet for $1000-1300 a month. How is this considered affordable?

  7. Avatar

    Betty Barrett

    February 17, 2021at10:55 pm

    I believe the rent would be too high for such small space, that is definitely not affordable housing!! I would not rent for that price, nor would any other senior, we haven’t lost our marbles!!!

  8. Avatar

    linda

    February 17, 2021at11:38 pm

    Again???? People think this is reasonable/affordable rent????!!! what is happening here?!! the wealthy….the homeless! thats what we have in Florida!

  9. Avatar

    Jay

    February 18, 2021at3:00 am

    The real problem here is that 1,000$ – 1,300$ is considered affordable. Not only that, but affordable for a converted 400 square foot shipping container??? 🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤯. It would be nice if the real estate developers in this area looked at the housing crash of a few years ago and considered the road they are currently on. History teaches because it tends to repeat itself 🤷‍♂️.
    It’d also be nice if our local journalists covered the reality our community is facing. I.E The new poverty line in this area is below 45,000$ per year, and that line is only getting higher.

  10. Avatar

    Marti

    February 18, 2021at3:15 am

    I heard affordable and got excited, I was thinking in the range of $750-800 but then much to my disappointment, I saw $1,000. That is waaaay too much for a measly 330 sq ft!! When I was stationed in Texas and Georgia in the military these last few years I paid $525 in San Antonio and $580 in Augusta Georgia. I wanted to retire and come back home to where I was born and raised, but I guess Kriseman only cares about making St Pete more attractive for those who are well off, not essential workers who make less than six figures! How about some REAL affordable housing prices?!?!

  11. Avatar

    ArmyMom

    February 18, 2021at6:06 am

    Too expensive

  12. Avatar

    Susan F

    February 18, 2021at7:41 am

    Profitable for investors is the key concern here. The idea is exciting but don’t sell it as affordable housing because as others have stated, it is not affordable for the workforce. Apparently,this group is not aware that incomes in Florida run at least 25% lower than other states. Try dropping that rent to max $1k or less. Keep in mind, as soon as the units are all rented the investment company starts raising the rent after the 1st year. So where is the affordability?

  13. Avatar

    Curtis

    February 18, 2021at7:48 am

    Are these Studio Apartments and how many bedrooms? To small for for the money…I think you can live in a bigger place and better area for those prices.

  14. Avatar

    Debbie Al

    February 18, 2021at8:14 am

    Who’s going to pay that much for a shoebox? Errrr this is not Manhattan or L.A. this. Is. St. Pete. Wait for April Fool’s Day.

  15. Avatar

    Christopher J Koback

    February 18, 2021at9:13 am

    Shipping containers do not need to be just for affordable housing. They have been using them all over the world in densely populated areas and they can actually be amazing and unique places to live. I’m sure the cost in the US is higher than in other countries because of our regulations, but this unique form of housing can be a game-changer if costs can be kept in check.

  16. Avatar

    Sean

    February 18, 2021at3:37 pm

    Exactly to those who ask how that is affordable. I know its near downtown, but just because many people can afford “$1000 $1300 a month” Doesn’t mean you should charge it! Thats terrible price per square foot. These developers, squeeze square footage out of you why trying to charge what everyone else does.

    WHy not just do $800/mo and maybe do 160 sq feet. See how its getting to be ridiculous?

  17. Avatar

    Beata

    February 18, 2021at4:08 pm

    This is insane. 1300 is not affordable housing. 1300 for a rent? In a shipping container?

  18. Avatar

    Moey49HT

    February 18, 2021at4:37 pm

    The wages in St Pete are still way below National average & most non professional positions will not support that expense plus they will have to be very well insulated in this climate

  19. Avatar

    Nate

    February 18, 2021at5:32 pm

    We are quickly turning in to california. Massively overpriced housing in a city that doesn’t meet income requirements to afford it. So now florida surpasses that 30% of income for housing to 130% of income. We are already stated as the worst state in the country for this with most spending 90-95% of income on housing. Funny how they want luxury pricing on a $12k buildout cost. I have 3 friends that are in this exact same business. Its highway robbery at 1k-1.3k/mo. That’s a studio renting for as much as a 3 bedroom house 4 blocks away.

  20. Avatar

    Mable Moore

    February 18, 2021at8:14 pm

    This is no way affordable rent this is more like making someone rich on poor man’s budget

  21. Avatar

    Tracy

    February 18, 2021at9:30 pm

    This is crazy!!! I have to live in the city limits (job requirement) I make $31k and this and almost everything else is unaffordable. Stop building for the rich, really build something affordable. Just another waste of money build affordable in the city limits!!!

  22. Avatar

    Barry Koestler

    February 18, 2021at10:03 pm

    I’m all for this as long as NO public dollars are involved. Let the private market explore and find out what can work in Saint Petersburg. Many times the city politicos try to force something that cost the taxpayers and only benefits some insiders. Let the private sector make it a go or a no.

  23. Avatar

    Barbara Roth

    February 18, 2021at11:40 pm

    Great idea, fabulous concept and design, however, too small for the price, as the cost is too high and not targeted for the everyday working individual, especially with the pandemic…I guess its only for the upper end of the spectrum yuppy or second home renter.
    So sad…

  24. Avatar

    Kim Salter

    February 19, 2021at6:24 am

    I seem to have missed something here. $1000 – $1300 is NOT “low cost” or affordable!!! This is not realistic! $500-$800 is low cost, $900 maybe!
    I think these developers need to get their heads out of the clouds and their feet back on earth and actually take some time to do actual research rather than catering to the %1 of the population. They might wanna think and refine their imagined low cost and affordability.

  25. Avatar

    Bethany Chance

    February 19, 2021at6:41 am

    About the only comment left to make, since almost everyone pointed out what a joke the price is, is to say that the ugly styling fits in perfectly with the rest of the plain crap that’s going up in downtown. Who else suspects that the positive comments are from friends of or the developer?

  26. Avatar

    Lisa

    February 19, 2021at5:06 pm

    Since when,and for WHO is 1000-1300 considered AFFORDABLE?? This is ridiculous!! Maybe 600-800 but nothing above 800 would be affordable with the wages they pay here!! Good luck to yall! Just more greedy developers looking to make quick money in crappy cheap housing, praying on the hard working poor!! Trying to make it sound like they are doing something good !! So sad you all think we’re that dumb!!

  27. Avatar

    Barbara

    March 3, 2021at10:05 am

    Who believes this is affordable? I was very disappointed when I read the article because I thought it was going to help the poor among us. Obviously not.

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