St. Louis City’s First Shipping Container Home Planned in Old North

A vacant LRA-owned lot that has sat empty since 1981 will soon be brought back to life with the construction of the first container home in St. Louis City.

The new house at 14th and Wright in the Old North St. Louis neighborhood is being built by Travis Sheridan, the head of cortex-based Venture Cafe Global Institute (VCGI) and his wife Gina, a librarian. The Sheridan’s are working with Zack Smithey, who recently built his own container home in St. Charles, on the design.

Smithey’s container home project was met with so much controversy that future containerized structures in St. Charles are now required to have a pitched roof, a conditional use hearing approving the design, and no exposed container corrugation is allowed. No such regulations exist in St. Louis city. The Sheridans, who currently live directly across the street from the proposed development, have contacted the neighborhood association and the alderman to request support for the project.

The home will be constructed on-site from nine 8’x40′ high cube shipping containers. The use of high cube containers, which are one foot taller than standard height shipping containers, allow for 9ft 6in ceiling heights. The 2,880 square foot home will have 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, a 25’x13′ second story deck, covered parking, and a small gallery space.

According to Sheridan the use of shipping containers will bring the cost of the custom home down to under $100/sqft. The existing wood container floors will be retained and encapsulated with epoxy. Exterior walls will be framed from the inside and insulated with closed-cell spray foam. The architect on the project is Steve Hollander and Joe Strain is the engineer. Matt LaMora and Joe Bandalos will be the general contractors.

The lot is currently owned by LRA with a hearing scheduled for January 30th where LRA is excepted to accept the offer on the lot. Construction will likely begin within a month of LRA approving the sale and completion is expected to be in June.

Note: A previous version of this story stated that the neighborhood association and alderman were in support of the project. The article has been updated to reflect that their support has been requested but not yet obtained.

  • rosa rios

    My husband and I have been looking in to this over the last year, this is something we will definitely look in to if is worth it. Please keep up updated with the progress!!

  • Lord_Littlefingers_Lash

    I can’t believe there isn’t already a shipping container house somewhere in St. Louis. That is very very hard to believe.

  • Vidya

    This is an awesome idea. Look forward to it coming to fruition and knowing the cost estimate for this construction.

  • Tom Coil

    Travis,
    If you have not purchased the overseas container yet, I would like to talk with you. I am with River-Roads, 9010 Hall St. St. Louis, MO 63147; we sell new and used containers, and I have both on my yard for your inspection.
    Tom Coil
    River-Roads Sales & Leasing
    9010 Hall St.
    St. Louis, MO 63147
    314-389-7487 ext. 253
    cell 314-568-0199
    visit our website at River-Roads.com

  • John

    This rendering looks fine from my perspective. The overall design looks better than the St. Charles shipping container home (referenced in the article) because of the clean lines and exterior coloring. The St. Charles home referenced in the article has odd-shaped, upside-down arched windows on the front elevation that look very 1980’s and a brick facade that doesn’t quite work with the shipping container design. I love brick and appreciate the reclaimed materials in the St. Charles home, but it needs the modern vibe as shown here. The clean lines and earth tones complement the aesthetic look much better.

    It will be interesting to see the final result of this home. Glad to see the investment in Old North St. Louis!

  • Mike H.

    Does anyone have a construction cost estimate for something like this? Is this, generally speaking, less expensive than other common models?

    • Mike H.

      I see: less than $100 per square foot. What is the usual cost per square foot?

      • Stephen Compton

        Building with recycled shipping containers theoretically can be less expensive then conventional construction, BUT due to extra government red tape and obstructionism, NIMBY attitudes of neighbors and neighborhood association, and various sub-contractor trades such as plumbing and electrical high bidding due to their unfamiliarity with this type of construction the cost savings usually get eaten up and it ends up about even cost wise. At least that is how most of the projects I’m personally familiar with have gone. The few exceptions have mainly been in “freedom pockets” where government has at least been neutral and tradesman subcontractors looked at it as a unique interesting project rather then a problem project with one of those annoying “different” people daring to do something different (For some reason both of those sides of the issue seem to either both go negative or both positive at the same time in the same areas.)

        However, all that said even when the cost just comes out a break even with conventional construction; you do end up with a superior end product as far as a disaster resistant structure provided the project is done correctly. Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Floods, Riots, even to a certain extent fires. Those containers are tough and can take a heck of a beating and not be destroyed or damaged as much as conventional structures provided cutting of the container s is kept to a minimum and addition of weak points such as windows, doors, skylights are not overdone. The best design I have seen for that was a coastal build with the containers laid on their sides in rows with the big container door ends facing the sea. Container doors thus serving as small decks and overhead awnings, below and above respectively with big all glass doors for light and to make full advantage of the ocean views. But when a big storm came in those big original container doors could still be closed up as giant storm shutters.

        • matthb

          Curious, what jurisdiction does the city or neighborhood association have over this type of building if it…
          meets zoning requirements
          meets building requirements
          and, is not in a historic district?

          In other words, are there any specific regulations against this type of housing compared to building a brick or vinyl sided home?

          • STLrainbow

            In that type of situation not much could be done if it is purely private development. In situations where abatement/subsidy is requested, that requires going through a variety of city approvals including aldermanic support. And I believe LRA takes into consideration any community input that might be presented as part of its land sale process.

          • Stephen Compton

            Usually it is apposed as a “no code exists for this structure type” and thus they either say it thus isn’t allowed or try to make up the rules on the spot and make them as prohibitive as they like.

            Many times they will try to use the lack of fire behavior data on this structure type as a reason to say it doesn’t meet fire codes (ignoring of course similar data on other types of metal building structures).

            In addition many residential neighborhoods have specific zoning , covenants, or HOA prohibiting “mobile” or “moduler” structures and/or requiring all buildings to be “light frame”, “stick built”, and/or masonry structures built from raw materials “on sight”. They will argue that container structures are built from “modules” (the individual containers) and thus prohibited and/or not of an approved type. Building with SIPS, straw-bale, COB, and even in some cases log cabin style or heavy timber frame structures will have similar issues but they will really fight you tooth and nail with container structures, even in cases where the finished structure is intended to be covered with a facade and you will not even be able to tell it is a container structure upon completion!

  • Adam

    nice design except for the part where it precludes having a sidewalk along 14th. i would hope that the city will not allow that.

    • Nicholas

      I wouldn’t hold your breath. We’re talking about people actively moving to and building new construction in one of the most depressed regions in the United States. They should be able to build it in the middle of the street if they want.

      • JCougar

        I’m not one of those people to critique new projects until they’re perfect examples of new urbanism (especially in areas like this were ANY development is progress), but I don’t think a sidewalk is too much to ask.

        • Nicholas

          There’s no sidewalk along the block as it is, so nothing is being blocked. Second, going off the rendering, if we really needed to put in a sidewalk, it is still possible with the current construction. Third, I’m sure there’s a reason they’re hugging the street like that, probably to give themselves more of a yard (to which I say let them have it). My point is that while this is project is encouraging, the neighborhood has quite a ways to go. I love championing the comebacks of many depressed neighborhoods in St. Louis as much as anyone, but nothing south of Delmar has ever been near as depressed as the Northside. A true urbanist should be operating in the spirit of actively encouraging this kind of construction in any way possible, not throwing up barriers.

          • Travis_Sheridan

            Hey there…this is Travis. While there currently isn’t a sidewalk along 14th Street, my wife and I plan to use the City’s 50/50 program to put one in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll pay for it ourselves. This is an initial rendering and lot placement (as well as exterior color) will change.

            Additionally, this article erroneously states that we’ve secured support from our neighborhood association (Old North Restoration Group) and our alderman (Mr. Bosley). What is more accurate is that we’ve reached out to both and are happy to share plans with them. We are also confident in securing their support, but it’s not presumed.

            We’re excited to see this inching forward, but I am one who generally holds back when things are at the rendering stage. STL has been shown/promised too many renderings. Look forward to the LRA meeting later this month.

          • Sorry for the error. That information was obtained from my conversation with Zack Smithey. We updated the story to reflect what you stated here.

          • Travis_Sheridan

            No worries. Just didn’t want to make false claims. Thanks for correcting it in the article.

          • Vicky Cummiskey

            Big caveats. . .good luck!

          • STLrainbow

            can you de-feature nicholas’s comment and feature travis’s? thanks! fwiw, I almost had a heart attack when seeing the rendering and it wasn’t from too much Crown Candy!

          • Done

          • Adam

            awesome. thanks, Travis. i don’t actually think it’s your responsibility to put in a sidewalk, but at the very least the proper setback should be maintained for a future sidewalk.

          • Jessica Payne

            Is a “true urbanist” more qualified to lead discussions about a neighborhood than actual neighborhood residents?

            Travis and Gina are fabulous neighbors. And I’m so glad they chose to stay in the neighborhood and build their home here. I’m also glad they regularly combat ideas that folks can do as they please in our community.

          • Every resident of St. Louis is a true urbanist. One great thing about nextSTL is that it shows that urbanism is not an ideology, but a shared commitment to place that includes very different ideas, tastes and outcomes.

          • Travis_Sheridan

            Truth!

      • Jessica Payne

        Hey there, Nicholas.

        Resident of Old North here. We don’t really like being told that our community shouldn’t have building standards. And that any development is “good development.”

        Has my neighborhood been a victim of disinvestment and institutionalized racism? Absolutely. But we are still a community. A thriving community with very clear ideas about what our neighborhood is and what it will be. And no, you can’t just come into our community and do as you please. That’s not how it works nor should it work that way.

        • Nicholas

          You’re misinterpreting my point, but whatever. You don’t seem to be searching for a constructive discussion on this topic with me anyways.

        • jhoff1257

          This is the correct take.

        • Nicholas

          Let me elaborate a little better as I think I’m being misunderstood.

          I’m a born and raised St. Louisan and current resident. I love StL and feel it is a vastly underappreciated city, and also take great pride in my neighborhood, so I get it if you became defensive. And I’m not saying Old North or the Northside in general should not have zero building standards or that an ‘anything goes’ policy should be allowed, even if my (half sarcastic) comment reads that way. I was more championing the sentiment that we’re seeing what I believe to be a cool project built in a part of the city that is often misrepresented with only negativity…but that message seems to have been lost in the weeds.

      • I’m not sure that a neighborhood that recorded 28% population growth in the last Census (while most St. Louis neighborhoods recorded decline) is any longer one of the “most depressed” regions.

        • Nicholas

          I assumed it was clear I was referring to the Northside in general, not Old North specifically.

          • jhoff1257

            It was obvious. I think your overall point is basically that developers should have a wide latitude because the North Side is desperate for development and the city shouldn’t be (as you put it) throwing up barriers. There is absolutely some truth to this.

            Having said that, there are still over 100,000 people that call the North Side home. Many of these people have lived there for decades, some of them are new comers. Either way these people are doing something a large majority of St. Louis area residents refuse to do. Living in, investing in, and supporting that side of the City. These are their neighborhoods and there is absolutely nothing wrong with them asking that a development conform to their shared belief of what they want their neighborhood to be.

          • Travis_Sheridan

            When we moved from California, six years ago this month, we first rented downtown in order to spend time exploring where we wanted to make our permanent home. After 18 months we found Old North and fell in love. Our plan/dream was always to build, but we didn’t know if that was ever going to be possible. The most exciting part is that we will maintain our existing home (a duplex) in Old North and rent out both sides. I am proud to say that the two tenants we’ve had in our existing rental side have purchased homes in Old North. Old North is ripe for discovery. But in the midst of discovery, it’s important to recognize the pioneers and residents who have been there for decades and generations. Gina and I are at just the beginning.

  • Nicholas

    this is awesome!