Box 500 shipping container affordable housing in the Granary – has construction stopped?

A pioneering project attempting to deliver affordable, low-carbon, energy-efficient units in south Downtown seems to have gone dark, according to neighbors.

Not so, says the developer. Financing is in the bag. Interior work is continuing. Final exterior paint is imminent, once warmer Spring weather arrives.

And the project, at 543 S 500 W, is for sale.

“I haven’t set a final sale price yet,” Rod Newman told us, who also owns and operates Eco Box Fabricators on 800 S and 600 W and Metro Title on E Broadway in Salt Lake City. First, he has to “back out” his costs for all the re-dos on the project.

Box 500 Apartments, with Pamela’s Place permanent supportive housing, left, and the Post District rising, right. Photos by Luke Garrott.

Experimentation abounded. City regulators had never dealt with a project of this type. The all-steel building aiming at affordability has suffered a mountain of challenges as the first-of-its-type in the city.

One big cost that’s still coming: removing and replacing the roof.

“It’s been almost four years,” Newman groaned, when asked why he is selling. “But I never planned on owning, renting, and keeping the property.”

The project consists of 83 units – 48 studio, 18 1-bdrm, and 17 2-bdrm – aimed at renters making less or equal to 60% AMI. Rents will be between $829-1204 a month.

Photos by Luke Garrott.

Once the new roof is on – a “two-week job” – and the HVAC system is filled with freon, Newman predicts only 30 days to completion. He currently has around 20 workers from his nearby Granary EcoBox factory finishing units inside, he told us.

Is he going to sell before completion? “It depends on the buyer,” he says. “Some [prospective buyers] want it finished, others not finished.”

One possible buyer is Chris Parker’s Giv Group. It owns the cereal mill to the north fronting 500 S, site of the Silos federal tax credit LIHTC project soon to break ground. Both parties confirmed Giv’s interest.

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Posted by Luke Garrott

Luke Garrott, PhD, has published in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, and written features for the Salt Lake City Weekly City Guide and The West View. A former two-term councilman in Salt Lake City's District 4, he lives in Downtown Salt Lake City and grew up in the Chicago area.