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Shipping Containers Being Put to Good Use in Michigan

Shipping Container Home in Suburbs

Bordering four of the five Great Lakes and being known as the birthplace of the automobile industry, the state of Michigan is firmly rooted in the transportation industry. As a result, it’s not a big surprise that one of the staples of the shipping industry – shipping containers – is being put to good use in Michigan.

Because it’s often expensive to ship empty containers back overseas for further use, shipping containers sometimes remain in Michigan. As a result, commercial developers and individuals are increasingly re-purposing them in creative ways. This blog will highlight some unique applications for shipping containers happening around the state of Michigan. 

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Weekend retreat in Union Pier, Michigan constructed of shipping containers

In Union Pier, Michigan, a small town between the Lake Michigan shore and the Galien River, the Fredman Design Group used a wood façade and shipping containers to design a weekend retreat.

According to a blog on the One Kindesign website, the architect said the shipping containers “offer a streamlined aesthetic and industrial vibe, with sustainable attributes and strength.” 

She said she enjoyed the mix of steel with more traditional wood, concrete, and glass elements and was drawn to the shipping containers because they are “fireproof, impervious to water, and much stronger than traditional building materials.”

The project took several years to complete and included research on best incorporating the shipping containers into the design. 

Shipping containers gave the designers plenty of space to work with. To create long sightlines and huge ceilings, the designers grouped three containers in two different home areas. The walls and tops were removed, and 20-foot-high ceilings were added with windows.

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Shipping containers homes picking up steam in Detroit suburbs

Shipping container home trends in Michigan are skyrocketing. And this private residence in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak is an impressive example. 

The 2,308-square-foot home featured three bedrooms and 2.5 baths and was constructed using seven shipping containers - five 40-foot shipping containers and two 20-foot shipping containers - and a mix of brick and vinyl siding. The property includes an oversized two-car garage, a rarity in this suburb because most lot sizes are small. 

According to Michael Dimitrieski, the listing agent of the home, “it surprised us that shipping containers are used more than we think. It’s something that’s growing in Michigan. You can make these how you want. They can be 10 percent to 15 percent cheaper than traditional construction.”

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Commercial collaborative in Sparta, Michigan, sells out of shipping containers

According to a news story from WDBJ-TV, a group of business owners in the Village of Sparta in Michigan (4,300 population) has hatched a new idea involving refurbished shipping containers to drive economic development. 

Jill Pfeiffle owns Kiki + Crew Merchant Co-Op, a group of 15 West Michigan businesses selling home decor and kid’s clothing. Initially, they sold their products virtually, but that recently changed. 

The businesses are now selling their wares from a 180-square-foot, renovated shipping container. Thanks to the efforts of the Village of Sparta and a private entity that developed the concept two years ago, the move came about.

Elizabeth Morse, a participant in the collaborative, says traditional brick and mortar stores can be too expensive for small startups, especially in a town where available properties require a complete renovation.

“It allows a business to start up in a space with virtually low overhead and learn the market most importantly,” said Morse.

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Shipping containers breathe new life all over Michigan

For Three Squared Inc!, a Michigan-based developer, shipping containers have a long life after transporting goods across the ocean. 

The company uses shipping containers, which naturally meet all building codes, to build exciting and durable mixed-use spaces, condominiums, and apartment complexes at a fraction of the cost of standard lumber construction.

Here are a few of the unique projects they’ve recently undertaken in Michigan:

  • Detroit Shipping Company, Detroit, Michigan:

    This project utilizes 21 shipping containers and includes a restaurant collective and beer garden that offers affordable upscale street food, two bars, space for startup retailers, and local art galleries. 
  • Model Center, Detroit, Michigan:

    This three-story, 2,800-square-foot Model Center was constructed in six hours and 15 minutes in 2015 and features an open concept inside with exposed steel. It includes two units: a two-story, two-bedroom unit and a one-bedroom unit on the third floor.
  • Nipote’s, Muskegon, Michigan:

    This is a first in Michigan. Nipote’s Italian Restaurant is the first full-service bar, cafe, and restaurant built of two shipping containers. This eatery is located near the waterfront on the outskirts of downtown Muskegon and offers home-cooked food in a small-scale building atmosphere.
  • Container Collective, Southeast Michigan:

    This ambitious design features 11 restaurants and 12 retail spaces for local artisans and includes two conference rooms and four lounges surrounding a centralized bar with 6,000 square feet of dining space. Outside, a 360-degree rooftop deck gives visitors a view of the surrounding area and overlooks the amphitheater.

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To learn more about purchasing shipping containers for your own unique purpose, check out our Shipping Container Buyers Guide. To locate a shipping container in the Detroit, Michigan, area, click here