Container Park: An Island Shopping Oasis for the Local Dreamer
Downtown Las Vegas looks a lot different these days. If you haven’t been down to the Bail Bonds neighborhood, you may want to give it a second glance. Past the grit of the old motels and the Adult Superstores is an area that redevelopment has finally claimed. It’s just a few steps past the glitter of The Fremont Street Experience, and down the street from the bars that have rejuvenated Fremont East. But like most people, I wasn’t looking for Container Park…I just ended up there.
It’s an island of re-imagined shipping containers, stacked in a way that has created an off-beat, small business haven in the middle of a still rough-around-the-edges part of town. It’s clean, freshly painted and once you go inside, you’ll find it’s full of dreamers and lots of security guards.
It won’t take long to see the entire complex; it’s small. But I advise to make a complete loop. Tucked into every corner of the place is another store, eatery or artist creating something for the public. Each shipping container is linked to the next with an industrial rail, or balcony and all of the units overlook a courtyard.
In the center is a massive play area, tree house and jungle gym just waiting for kids to fill it with laughter. The tree house is even made out of shipping containers, wound together by rope, plastic slides and foam playground mats. It’s the perfect place to play while the adults shop and eat. On the day I visited, even the cold couldn’t keep kids away from the maze. They gravitated toward the unique space to play pretend.
In the back of the property is a space to perform. On this day a crooner was out in the cold singing Christmas music, but when the weather gets warmer, this will be a place for local performers to try on their musical hats. A large lawn sprawls beyond the stage, and the sound bounces off of the steel walls of the shipping containers creating a tunnel of sound.
Whether you choose to stroll on the top row of stores or the bottom, chances are you’ll find something unique. It’s hard to see past the tinted windows so you have to open the doors to discover what’s inside. When I opened the doors to The Art Box I didn’t know what to expect. Inside of the tiny 250 square foot space was a collection of local art for sale. Priced to appeal to the every-shopper, the items were one-of-a-kind. So was the tenant. Tom and his wife own the place and according to his account, Container Park is letting them live their late-life dream. “When we applied to become tenants here we had to make a video and show them what we were all about. It was like a job interview with a really amazing result at the end.” Tom says he, like most of the tenants you’ll find there, poured everything into this shop with the intent to help his local art community. No major company can have a space at Container Park. It’s strictly a place for small businesses to get their start. In fact, if you inquire about leasing space there, you’ll have to prove that you have a desire to contribute to the Las Vegas community and make it a better place to live. Sustainability and Storytelling are what this complex is all about.
Dreaming is nice, but when you visit, look beyond the enormous praying mantis and the colorful boxes. The neighborhood still has a long way to go. The homeless still call this area of town theirs, and they’ll yell to let you know about it. That is part of the reason for the guards that patrol the new shops, they want to protect this young project. While Container Park is a neon sign in the dark desert of Downtown Las Vegas, it’s still just a diamond in the rough. In time, I think more of the area will follow the example of this small business island, but until that time, make Container Park your Downtown destination and spread the word. It could be a formula that works, but only time will tell.