There’s plenty that could go wrong with a business plan dependent on attracting small businesses to work in stacked shipping containers, beside a train track, near a busy convergence of highways pouring into downtown Providence.
But in practice The Box Office has proven a clear success since it opened in the summer of 2010 on the former Harris Lumber site on Harris Avenue.
“Within a couple of months, we were 80 percent full. Now we’re almost 90 percent leased,” said owner, architect and real estate developer Peter Gill Case.
The 10,000-square-foot building, composed of 32 recycled shipping containers, has 12 offices ranging from 700 to 1,000 square feet. Office space rents for $17 per square foot and includes use of conference areas.
“The business plan was to hit the niche market of smaller spaces, even though there was a glut of office space, in general,” said Case.
Packaging 2.0 owner Michael Brown knew it was the place for him on the day he came to serve as a coach at Social Venture Partners Rhode Island, an incubator for social enterprises located in The Box Office.
“After the meeting I said, ‘I love this building. I have to be in here,’ ” said Brown. That was two years ago. The flexibility of the building offers Brown options for office space for his recycled-plastic packaging business, whose client list includes Whole Foods.
Since the packaging manufacturing is done in Massachusetts, Brown began sharing basic office space in a double container with a man in another business. Now he’s in a larger, five-container space working with people who have nothing to do with his company.
“Everybody has different desks and talks on the phone. There are some great meeting spaces,” said Brown, who is the only employee of Packaging 2.0 right now, but at some point, plans to hire additional employees.
“I could take a two-container space and grow. I don’t have to move,” said Brown, whose enthusiasm for the building embraces what some might consider disadvantages, like Amtrak trains whizzing by at close range.