Shipping containers used as D.C. apartment building cause backlash among neighbors

WASHINGTON (WJLA) – Not everyone in the District’s Brookland neighborhood is thrilled about its newest creative housing idea: shipping containers that were recently brought in to house Catholic University students.

Eighteen shipping containers are now firmly stacked, as engineers and architects work to transform them from cargo holders to a four-story apartment building—the first residence of its kind in D.C.

“The overall goal is to build something different that people are going to like and like to live in,” one neighbor said.

“Just to make sure everything is done right,” said Sean Joiner, one of the structure’s co-owners. “It is going to look fantastic.”

Since the project began on Monday, looks are turning into opinions; it seems everyone has one.

“I think it’s cool,” said Catholic University graduate Julie Mullen. “It’s a good way to make use of something that probably would be recycled anyway. So, go green, I guess. Why not?”

“It just looks horrible,” said D.C. resident Brian Bush. “I would expect them to at least put a little bit more—better construction.”

The Brookland neighborhood is mainly made up of mature, traditional homes, with front lawns and tree-lined streets. The area is home to Catholic University and its students. The owners of the shipping container building are graduates of the university.

“I think we might have been a bit little naïve on the attention we’d get,” said container co-owner Matt Grace. “I figured there was gonna be some people that wouldn’t like it and like the traditional look better. But, there are some people who don’t like traditional.”

A quick check of the community listserv on the subject reveals plenty of backlash. One resident wrote, “This isn’t really about innovation; it’s about increase in income.” Another wrote, “This is bad, very bad, and yet it is celebrated as being positive for the community.”

Love it or hate it, the building is not yet complete.

“I love the story about them creating this, the daringness of not knowing whether it will work or the neighborhood will love it,” said D.C. resident Karin Londgren. “I love it.”

District resident Mike Joyce added, “I know there’s been a lot of opposition as far as this coming into the neighborhood, but I am holding my opinions until it’s completed. Hopefully, it’ll look nice.”

Though the building is located in an area heavily populated by Catholic University students, it is open to all. However, it is already fully booked and will open in September.