Oct 12, 2021 - News
Shipping container village coming to West Philly
A mural of an African American woman wearing earrings that read "Mother" and "Nature" is painted on vacant one-story building at N 49th Street and Parkside Avenue in West Philadelphia.
The city is planning a container village at this vacant lot at the corner of N 49th Street and Parkside Avenue. Photo: Mike D'Onofrio/Axios

A container village is coming to a vacant lot in West Philly.

What's happening: The city is in the early stages of planning a farmers market-style mall of shipping containers at the corner of N 49th Street and Parkside Avenue, city officials told Mike on Monday.

Why it matters: The neighborhood has suffered from disinvestment, poverty and a lack of available retail space for small businesses.

Details: The village, the first in the city, is expected to cost at least $300,000. It'll be open year-round and include:

  • 20 containers for businesses to operate in, fitted with flooring and electricity.
  • Space for food trucks and entertainment.

Plus, participating businesses will pay low rents, estimated around $500-700 a month, according to Councilmember Curtis Jones, who represents District 4 where the project will be based.

  • The city will also provide resources such as training and marketing.

What they're saying: City spokesperson Kevin Lessard told Axios in an email that the project aims to provide local small businesses and startups with "an opportunity to grow, hire and thrive."

  • "We're looking for the person that used to sell dresses out of the back of their truck, jewelry out of the back of their truck and we want to legitimize them to learn how to take the next step into retail success," Jones said.

West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative president Jabari Jones, who's involved in the project, said the village could be a boon for Black-owned businesses, which are significantly under-represented in the city. They're also overwhelmingly single-person operations and face significant barriers, including a lack of access to capital.

  • "What we're doing is trying to bring those startup costs down, reducing some of those barriers so that Black entrepreneurs can get into a space sooner than they typically would be able to do on their own," he said.

What's ahead: The city is expected to put out a proposal request for management of the site by the end of the year, Lessard said.

  • The project could open in early 2022.
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