Finding a better use for container vans: Business spaces

By Jose Santino S. Bunachita |August 03,2018 - 09:13 PM

An artist’s rendition of Sugbo Mercado’s The Market is shown above. The 2,500-square-meter food park in Mandaue City uses container vans as food stalls (left photo).

Entrepreneurs are turning container vans into office, retail, food, dormitory spaces

The need for brick-and-mortar spaces is a concern that often leaves micro and small businessmen resorting to just online presence.

Aside from the huge investment needed in putting up a physical store, it is also harder to look for good locations within city centers nowadays.

This is where container van parks come in.

More and more businesses have turned into developing container vans, both used and brand new, into office, retail, and food spaces.

Among these is the recently opened The Market by Sugbo Mercado in Mandaue City.

From tents, some of the well-loved startup food and beverage brands at the weekend food market in IT Park have graduated into permanents stalls at The Market.

The 2,500-square meter food park uses container vans as stalls for these vendors that have been put together. A high-ceiling is also installed to cover diners inside the area.

“Apart from the trendy industry appeal, the modular structures allow easier and faster construction on top of the infinite configuration possibilities,” said Michael Karlo Lim, marketing and communications director of Sugbo Mercado Food Bazaar Inc. (SMFBI), on why they decided to use container vans for The Market.

“The stacked units can also be complemented by other structures to complete a cohesive building structure as we have done at The Market to include a large, airy, high-roofed dining space,” he added.

The Market, which had its grand opening yesterday (August 3), is open six days a week, Tuesdays to Sundays, from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.

They also have longer lease contracts of six months which will be renewable.

A total of 29 vendors are housed in The Market which has a dining space that can accommodate up to 350 people.

Using container vans also allows each vendor to personalize their assigned space and design it to match their own branding.

“Also, it is in line with our advocacy to incubate startup brands to become the best in Cebu and to graduate them into other commercial locations and even their own permanent brick-and-mortar settings, later on,” Lim said.

While container vans are much more expensive than the tents which they use at IT Park, Lim said these are more structurally-sound and easy to secure.

Each of the ten-footer container vans they use cost around P35,000. These are bare and used units.

The price can also go lower or higher depending on the condition of each container van.

Lim believes that the use of container vans for businesses will become more popular and common in the coming years or months. Aside from food parks, these can also be used for other purposes.

The Grid

In fact, another property using container vans has already risen in Barangay Talamban, Cebu City.

Aside from a food park, the Grid also houses shops, office spaces, and even a dormitory-for-rent for students.

According to Evangeline Ugarte, co-owner and operations manager of the Grid, she first thought of bringing the concept of using container vans following her different travels in other countries.

“Using container vans as affordable homes is a concept I stumbled upon in my travels during my period of studying college. I also worked in a sustainable restaurant in Boston and wanted to bring a concept back home that meets creativity, business, and sustainability,” she shared.

The Grid has 15-square meter pads that can accommodate one to four persons. It’s monthly rate is only P10,800.

For this amount, renters already have their own private bathroom, free water, airconditioned rooms, loft bed, desk and chair, shelves, a closet, and their submeter – perfect for students who are looking for dorms.

The entire area also has free Wi-Fi, al fresco and shared spaces, laundry service, weekly housekeeping and daily garbage collection, 24-hour security and closed-circuit television cameras.

The area also has shops that sell a variety of items from food and beverages, artworks, natural and organic merchandise, clothes, and basic groceries.

The Grid also offers office spaces targeted for startups at a monthly rate of P15,000. It is inclusive of high-speed internet connection, own comfort room, shower and sink, desks, and cabinets.

According to Ugarte, using container vans was a smart business decision for them.

“In terms of affordability, the structure itself is quick to set up, therefore being able to open faster and giving quicker returns,” she said.

However, she admitted that there had been some concerns in using container vans especially the heat and warmth inside.

This is why she said each container van had to be carefully redone so it would have double-wall insulation.

At the same time, they also need to get contractors with experience in working with steel walls and structures as container vans are susceptible to leaks if not properly handled.

Just like Lim, Ugarte also sees a good future for container van parks.

“There could be more food park vans coming up as we are growing to become more of a micro community, meaning we don’t leave our areas and choose convenience over traffic,” she said.

There are also no problem with supply as she said brand new container vans are readily available. Second hand ones that are still good in condition are also available although lesser in supply compared to brand new ones.

The Grid also has sister companies called the Tambayan.

These food parks also use container vans for their food and beverage tenants. These are located in Consolacion town in the north and Barangay Pardo in Cebu City in the south.

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