When a lack of affordable retail space was preventing small businesses and startups from getting off the ground in Cleveland's Kinsman neighborhood, Burten, Bell, Carr Development Inc. decided to think out of the box.
This Saturday marks the soft opening of the BoxSpot, an innovative incubator that will house seven businesses inside shipping containers alongside a community courtyard and performance space. According to Burten, Bell, Carr Executive Director Tim Tramble, the project has been in the works for four years, and he’s excited to see it taking flight.
The innovative incubator BoxSpot will house seven businesses inside shipping containers in Kinsman.“When there aren’t enough resources to create a traditional market, the key is to create a nontraditional market,” he says. “We’re creating a fully operable space that will be active 365 days of the year for businesses and designing the space in a way that makes it affordable to micro-enterprises from the community.”
Narrowed down from an initial field of 97 applicants, the seven tenants selected to set up shop at BoxSpot include a screen-printing company, hair salon, restaurant, optometrist, and an apparel and accessories shop. Initially, the incubator was intended for six businesses, but Tramble says the sole 40-foot shipping container will be split into two spaces to accommodate a seventh spot. (Most of the shipping containers measure 20 feet long.)
Tramble likens the concept to that of a food truck or tiny house—essentially a micro-version of something that enables more cost and space efficiency. To that end, rents range from $250 to $400 per month, a choice Tramble says is highly intentional in keeping the incubator accessible for emerging entrepreneurs from Kinsman and surrounding low-income neighborhoods.
BoxSpot will have a soft opening Sept. 14.“It's very important to us when we talk about rebuilding the community that we do it from the inside out,” Tramble says. “So many times, outsiders come in and invest in low-income neighborhoods, while current residents often don’t have the wherewithal or financial capital to partake in redeveloping their own community. We’re creating a model where that absolutely happens, and that makes me really excited as a 19-year community development practitioner.”
The official ribbon cutting will take place Thursday, Oct. 17, but a series of open-air markets will allow Clevelanders to preview BoxSpot starting this Saturday, Sept. 14, and continuing every weekend through the end of October. Free and open to the public, the events will feature live entertainment, games, and the chance to check out the new BoxSpot shops.