The Cargo District - Shipping Container Community, Wilmington, NC

Coworx At The Cargo District
Auggie & Zo - Shipping Container Boutique in The Cargo District
The Plant Outpost
Alcove Beer Garden
Location and contact info
About Romero Architecture
About LS Smith

ProjectThe Cargo District
ArchitectRomero Architecture
General contractorLS Smith, Inc
LocationWilmington, North Carolina, United States

Romero Architecture

Drawing inspiration from French architect Le Corbusier and his idea that a home is a machine for living, Romero worked to bring that theory and aesthetic into the design of The Cargo District.

From unique mixed-use projects to local headquarters, the region has been growing with the work of many innovative building designers such as Romero.

He’s among the pool of local architects bringing unique touches to developments that are changing the Wilmington skyline and leaving a more modern mark on the city’s commercial architecture through either building reuse, expansion or new construction.

Starting in 2016, Romero joined forces with Leslie Smith, the developer who had the vision for The Cargo District - Shipping Container Community at South 16th and Queen streets. Romero helped bring Smith’s ideas to light.

“It’s a bold development,” said Romero, who brought his architecture firm to Wilmington in 2006.

His work with Smith on The Cargo District brought this urban mixed-use development that played off the trend of using shipping container architecture in a commercial setting.

The project includes nine, one-bedroom live/work units, each with nearly 600 square feet of living space. The building’s key pieces – the 20- foot shipping containers – cost about $30,000 each to rehab for this job, he said.

In his plans, Romero sketched windows at the container’s end to bring light into the spaces, in addition to slot windows, which were designed to minimize cuts to the container’s steel structure. The wooden floors of the container were also refurbished, he said.

There were a lot of city zoning and planning issues “because they have certain codes in this district that won’t allow exposed container sides,” Romero said of the challenges. “So, I had to come up with a way to semi-disguise it but not completely cover the container because we were trying to celebrate the container too.”

“This city has a long history of ships and water and shipping containers … and so there’s something unique in that it ties that history to the modern usage of these things, and I think that’s rare,” Romero said. “The area is somewhat industrial, and that vibe carries through this project nicely.”

Kelly Reynolds, LS Smith

The Cargo District would not be the place it is without its unique architecture and design. Therefore, we wanted to dive deep into a topic you have all been asking about: shipping containers. This week, Kelly Reynolds is here to share her wisdom on what it’s like to build with shipping containers or as she likes to call them, “grown up Legos”.

When it comes to shipping containers, Kelly is an expert. Reynolds is here to answer our most frequently asking questions: Why do we decide to use shipping containers? Are they less expensive to build with? Are they stronger? Harder to build with? Better than a “regular” home?

Kelly made it clear that shipping container construction is not more affordable. If you want to build a home out of a shipping container, it will come out to about the same price as a stick build unit with insulation, framing, and drywall.

She said when it comes to being expensive or not, “the devil is in the details”. If you want a shipping container with one door and one window, then it could ultimately be more affordable.

Along with shipping container construction being equally expensive as regular construction, it’s equally, if not more, challenging to build with them. Once you puncture a shipping container, it’s immediately less durable, so a great deal of care has to be taken to make sure that does not happen while using them as a structure. So why would we go through all the trouble to build with shipping containers in the first place?

Kelly explains that, “shipping container construction is a different medium for building, which makes them stand out in a heavily diluted construction industry.” At The Cargo District, shipping containers aren’t used for affordability or ease, but for their aesthetic, sustainability approach, and ability to stand out.

When asked if she thinks the use of shipping containers was the reason why some of our members decided to settle down here Kelly says definitely. Some people came to The Cargo District for the aesthetic, some for the eco-friendly aspect, and some, just because it was a change. Simply put, “some people just think they’re really cool.”

Kelly makes that obvious, by stating, “were about 7 months into this now, and between phone calls and emails, I probably still get about 50-100 inquiries a week about The Cargo District.” She has seen many people stop, get out of their cars, and just take pictures of the area.

She recently was contacted by a woman who lost her home in Hurricane Florence. The woman was looking to build a new home that could withstand disaster and was interested in shipping container construction.

She liked the durability of a shipping container (yes, yet another reason why shipping containers rule) which would make sense, because she did not want her house being destroyed again. On the other hand, she liked them, just because she really liked the way the containers look. Kelly explains that this is a part of the reason why shipping containers are so attractive to people because, “it’s a really neat idea for people who like form and function.”

From Kelly’s point of view, she says that shipping containers are simply more fun to build with. She calls them grown up legos and likes the fact that a shipping container that isn’t normally supposed to be used for construction, can turn into a space with purpose, whether it be a home, an office, or even a coffee shop.

Five years from now, Kelly still plans to be a part of The Cargo District, but possibly in a different way. She would like to take her appreciation and knowledge of shipping container construction, and teach people what she knows. She wants to have the ability to travel and consult in other countries or states about shipping container construction and how to integrate it into communities. People are extremely interested in this new medium for building and Kelly wants to tell them, “once you penetrate the side of steel, this is the proper way to flashing something, or these are the roof systems that work best on containers.”

She explains that even though she is a very driven person that loves to work, she would love to travel more and cut back a little. Just by talking with her for a short time, it was obvious that she will excel in teaching all about repurposing shipping containers.

Regarding The Cargo District in a couple years, Kelly sees it as becoming one of the staples of Wilmington, North Carolina. The Cargo District is on an upswing and people want to be a part of it. Kelly says, “The Cargo District will be like South Front or Front Street. Most people that live in this town, or are familiar with it, will know exactly what you’re talking about when you say ‘The Cargo District”. Thank you Kelly, for being one of the people who has made the dream of The Cargo District and Shipping Container Community in North Carolina a reality.

Coworx At The Cargo District

Coworx is a dynamic, collaborative workspace designed to meet the evolving needs of today’s mobile workforce. Our members are part of a community of driven professionals who share ideas, trade business leads, and foster partnerships. We bring together people who have different jobs and dreams, but enjoy an engaging and inspiring space.

Address1608 Queen Street, Wilmington, NC, United States
Phone+1 910-408-5479

Auggie & Zo - Shipping Container Boutique in The Cargo District

Located in The Cargo District of Wilmington, NC. Auggie & Zo offers a blend of local & non-local, carefully selected, vendors and brands of fashion, accessories, shoes, home decor, and more.

Address1605 Queen St, Unit 111, Wilmington, NC 28401, United States

The Plant Outpost

Houseplant shop located in The Cargo District. Originally located within a 20ft shipping container. We offer a curated selection of thoughtfully sourced houseplants and locally made goods and/or other women-owned brands.

Address624 S 17th St Unit B, Wilmington, NC 28401, United States
Phone+1 910-769-0983

Alcove Beer Garden

Beer garden located in the Cargo District.

Address348 Hutchison Ln, Wilmington, NC 28401, United States
Phone+1 856-492-3241

Location and Contact Info

The Cargo District is unique because of our approach on modern development with use of shipping containers. What really makes us special, though, is the community within those containers and the stories they have to tell.

Address1608 Queen Street Suite A, Wilmington, NC, United States
Phone+1 740 438-1465

About Romero Architecture

“One of the most rewarding aspects of designing a project is getting to know my clients and creating art that is specifically commissioned to their building. The combination of art and architecture is part of my ethos.”

Early in Rob Romero's architectural career, he had the fortunate opportunity to work in Antoine Predock's office on a wide range of projects from cutting edge custom residences (Rose House - Dallas), to massive convention centers (Agadir, Morocco) to iconic museums (American Heritage Center and Art Museum) to amusement parks (Disney Mediterranean Hotel in Orlando). Since then, he has worked for several other design-oriented architectural firms until stepping out on his own.

In 2000, he created Romero Architecture in Wilmington, NC and has pursued all scales of projects from retail/commercial architecture to residential and renovation to medical and dental office design.. As with each project, he believes that site analysis is vital and he makes an effort to experience each location as part of his duty as an architect to inform his design intuition.

Address210 Greenfield St, Wilmington, NC 28401, United States
Phone+1 910-228-3137

About LS Smith

L.S. Smith Inc., is an unlimited general contractor and community developer, providing custom shipping container design and construction throughout Southeastern NC. Based in Wilmington since 2004, the company also provides expert HVAC, plumbing, and electrical services for commercial, residential, and multi-family properties.

Address1605 Queen St STE 101, Wilmington, NC 28401, United States
Phone+1 910-900-4744

The Cargo District - Shipping Container Community, Wilmington, NC