Providing dining options for a mile-long office building full of creative tenants meant thinking outside the box—or inside the box, in this case.

But the decision to line up shipping containers to house restaurants and shops on the promenade of the revamped Innovation and Design Building wasn’t just a “cool” idea—it made sense for the area, as well.

Located in Boston’s Marine Industrial Park, the I&D Building is next to a working dry dock where ships are repaired and cargo freights are dropped off. The containers, called one-trippers, were previously used. So giving them new life fit the building’s focus on sustainability and adaptive reuse.

Because the area was pretty void of food options, the goal was to offer enough diversity to fuel everyone’s tastes. The mix currently includes a coffee shop, an Asian concept, a seafood spot, an American kitchen focused on grilled cheese and a juice and smoothie concept.

The building’s developer—the same company behind high-profile food halls such as Ponce City Market in Atlanta and Chelsea Market in New York City—owns the shipping containers and signed two-year leases with each vendor, with hopes that vendors will renew at the end of the term.

The shipping containers have the flexibility and funky appeal of food trucks. But because they’re stationary, they have repeat business potential of a traditional brick-and-mortar. The captive audience of the office building also means a consistent customer base on which to test out new dishes. And that, says the building, was a selling point for luring local brands who use the sites as mini test kitchens for their other operations.

“The diverse amenities are meant to engage and fuel the community … The shipping container users are charged with approaching these spaces as test labs to bring ingenuity to the culinary experience of the building.”
—Michael Phillips, president of The I&D building developer Jamestown