Ashley Street Shipping Container Project

A proposed multifamily project in the Cathedral District downtown could provide Jacksonville with an answer to its growing demand for downtown apartments.

JWB Real Estate Capital plans to build 18 multifamily units out of shipping containers downtown at 412 E. Ashley St. on a 0.13-acre lot.

Ashley Street Container Project JWB RE Capital

(Image Source: JWB Real Estate Capital)

The $1.2 million project will see rents for the roughly 320-square-foot studio apartments starting at $550, providing Jacksonville with another affordable housing option.

"You're not going to see any rents that are that low" in most other place in the city, said Colliers Associate Director of Multifamily Investment Services Morgan Williams. Generally, rents for a one-bedroom or studio range from around $1,000 to $1,500 in Jacksonville, she said.

But the project also shows developers that bringing new multifamily properties online downtown can be done. In general in Jacksonville, developers build apartment projects in the suburbs, where the cost to do so isn't as expensive.

For the most part, it only makes sense to build multifamily downtown when a developer can build a high-rise or mid-rise and when the rents get high enough – around $2 per square foot – to do so.

"If you can't build 200 units right now, you're just not building," Williams said.

However, this project can serve as an example for how infill projects can help meet demand, she said. The downtown multifamily occupancy rate was at 96 percent last year, according to Downtown Vision Inc. data. JWB President Alex Sifakis said the company won't see a great return on investment for the project. Rather, the company wanted to pursue the project out of interest in building something unique and contributing to downtown's growth.

"It's more something we wanted to do because it's a really innovative, groundbreaking project," Sifakis said.

The project was inspired by shipping container developments in Europe and in larger U.S. cities where shipping container housing is used when land is scarce and housing affordability is an issue. For instance, a 1,000-unit shipping container development in Amsterdam, which was called Keetwonen, provided student housing. Each shipping container costs between $60,000 and $70,000. The housing is built off-site, meaning JWB only needs around one to three months on-site to put the project together. In total, it could take around five to eight months to build. No parking will be included at the development.

JWB plans to seek a REV grant to help offset the cost of construction.

Source: Jacksonville Business Journal