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Shipping containers as nomadic pop-up hood in Salt Lake City

James Alfandre comes from a family of real estate developers (his maternal ancestors helped settle the Salt Lake Valley). He credits his paternal grandfather for contributing to the sprawl around Washington DC. Alfandre wants to do the opposite. He wants to do densify Salt Lake’s downtown and that seems to be where his peer group wants to live (according to research group Robert Charles Lesser & Co, 77% of Gen Y plans to live in an urban core).

“I was born in the suburbs I’m a creature of the suburbs but don’t ever want to live there again,” explains Alfandre. “There’s nothing wrong with the suburbs, they have their perks for sure, but I want to live in a more walkable, compact, urban environment and raise my family there so the next logical step for me was to use a more open-source model engaging current tenants and attracting future tenants about what they want their neighborhood to turn into.”

Instead of seeking out vacant lots, Alfandre looked to the middle of the streets as a place for development. Salt Lake City has some of America’s widest streets, thanks to Brigham Young’s 19th century decree that they must be wide enough ”for a team of four oxen and a covered wagon to turn around.”

To create a middle-of-the-street hood, Alfandre chose the city’s Granary District, a semi-abandoned, industrial neighborhood (a relic of the railroad) and in the spring of 2013, he (along with others from the neighborhood) brought in 16 recycled shipping containers rehabbed as micro-retail space and model residential units.

For six months, Granary Row become a pop-up neighborhood– flanked by 2 lanes of traffic — where fledgling entrepreneurs could get a start (year one saw clothing stores, a bike shop, an art gallery and a local humane society), food trucks parked, affordable shipping container micro-housing was displayed and the neighborhood got to know each other better.

Granary Row will pop up again– other ideas that came out of the neighborhood: gardens, dedicated bike lanes, parks or plazas -, but Alfandre hopes that at some point it will become more permanent.

* Filmed by Johnny Sanphillippo, owner of a small, mortgage-free home. He also films stories about urbanism, adaptation and resilience for his site Granola Shotgun.

** Music credit: Good Manor