March – April 2020
Upcycled shipping containers hold the key to urban fun.
BY MEGG MUELLER
A bit of a bold statement was made by a “New York Times” architecture and design blogger when she stated “The shipping container could be the 21st century’s brick.” Bold perhaps, but not without merit. The containers are inexpensive, easy to transport and set up, sustainable, and watertight, to name just a few attributes.
Need further proof? Container parks dot the planet, and in the last decade or so, industrial structures inviting shopping, dining, recreation, and more have sprung up everywhere from California to Dubai. In Nevada, there are three alone, each with its own vibe and intention, but all distinctly engaging.
Reno’s container park sprang to life in 2017 from dreams of a family-friendly community space. Co-owners Phil Buckheart and Kurt Stitser envisioned a place where families, pets, and friends could congregate downtown near the Truckee River. Phil had visited a container park near San Francisco that had a great vibe and felt the idea would translate to Reno.
“We like to visit new fun places with our families, and we enjoy going out during the day,” Phil explains. “We didn’t want to go indoors or to dark bars. We wanted an outdoor venue that didn’t previously exist.”
A long-vacant lot on the south side of the Truckee River caught their eye, and after signing a five-year lease, the pair set to work on their community gathering place. Today, bocce ball courts, a variety of food trucks, three bar areas, places to sit and gather, and local artwork fill the once-empty space. Weekend nights bring a younger crowd, Phil says, but midweek evenings and in the daytime, The Eddy plays host to young families along with many regular visitors.
Owing to the northern Nevada weather, The Eddy is a seasonal gathering space. The space usually shutters after the annual Santa Crawl in mid-December and reopens for St. Patrick’s Day.
“When we opened, we weren’t sure if it would be seasonal,” Phil says. “We decided to see how far we could go into winter, but we were just playing it by ear.”
Phil and Kurt are also playing the future by ear. The question of what happens when the lease is up in 2021 is something Phil says isn’t a focus right now. Instead, The Eddy is focused on its fourth year in business and maintaining the high standards set since its opening.
“I think when we got it laid in, it’s exactly what we were trying to accomplish,” Phil says. “A dog-friendly, family-friendly, outdoor atmosphere where people can look at art, and experience pop-up markets, and nonprofit events. It’s nice to see people who normally wouldn’t have come downtown experiencing all of this.”
16 S. Sierra St.
Reno, NV 89501
DOWNTOWN CONTAINER PARK
When the Las Vegas Downtown Container Park opened in December 2013, it was an anomaly. Not just because it was an open-air shopping area constructed of refurbished shipping containers, but it was also an early salvo in the battle to bring the historic downtown back to life. Seven years later, victory can be claimed.
The park has become the heart of downtown, the community hub, and a central meeting point for people, according to General Manager Kristine Reynolds.
“When the park opened it was a little scary to come down here, even seven years ago,” she says. “It’s changed a ton. They are increasing the walkability on Fremont Street and once it’s all done, it’s going to make it a much more friendly environment for pedestrians with wider sidewalks, more trees…it’s really grown into a full experience.”
Downtown Container Park launched as an open-air shopping area where small businesses could build their brands and launch their companies. The center has moved from the incubation of small businesses to a solid retail space. Today there are 21 retail/service business and 13 food and beverage tenants. There are original tenants still at the Park, and success stories of small businesses that launched and eventually left to move to larger retail locations.
The popularity of its businesses brings patrons in in droves and guiding them in like a beacon in the night is the 55-foot Mantis that stands at the entrance and shoots flames from its antenna. Mantis once reigned over the desert during the annual Burning Man festival, but she’s made her home at the Downtown Container Park since its opening. Once inside, the Treehouse Play Zone draws families with its interactive playground that parents and kids can explore. Inside the gated area are massive foam building blocks, hidden stairs, a 33-foot slide, and the chance to climb to the top of the treehouse for the best view around.
Being family-friendly is a top priority; the Park has used a “stroller-count metric” since the beginning to gauge how many families visit, and each month there’s programming just for kids.
“We have all kinds of special events, including live music every Friday and Saturday, wine and beer walks, plus Kid’s Camp,” Kristine says. “It’s so family-centric here. Parents can bring their kids to play in the treehouse, then go sample some wine or beer, and then eat on the patio with the kids.”
After 9 p.m. it’s 21-and-older only inside the park, and Kristine notes that the mix of patrons overall is about evenly split between visitors and locals. Locals are returning over and over and the stroller count is growing each year. Discussions about improving the Park are happening, but it seems likely that any changes will continue the goal of providing downtown Las Vegas with a community hub.
Downtown Container Park
707 Fremont St.
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Rick Harrison’s Pawn Plaza has been open since summer 2015, right across the street from the famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. Rick saw an opportunity to provide food, beverage, and retail services to the myriad visitors to his store, who can sometimes spend hours in line to see the where HISTORY’S incredibly popular reality show “Pawn Stars” is filmed.
Brightly painted containers host such shops as Rick’s Rollin Smoke BBQ, where Rick can be found tending bar most weekend nights; Chumlee’s Candy on the Blvd; Nfused Coffee, purportedly Nevada’s first coffee shop to offer CBD oil supplements; Highway Radio station; Slingshot and scooter rentals at Elite Motor Rentals; Brooklyn-style pizza at Good Pie; and a taste of the Southwest at Q’Rico.