The Boxyard Igniting Retail Spark In Downtown Tulsa

Innovative retail center constructed from repurposed shipping containers activates an empty lot, looks to spark a retail revival in downtown Tulsa.

Casey Stowe, Principal - Nelson + Stowe Development

What was the inspiration behind the concept for The Boxyard?

The initial inspiration came from Boxpark Mall in London. However my research into cargotecture allowed me to pull from several different projects. But if you go to Shoreditch High Street in East London you will see very similar design language to the Boxyard.

What are some of the unique features of this certainly, architecturally-interesting development that attracts end users? What makes Boxyard the kind of third place that will make Tulsans adopt it as their own?

Of course the novelty of a shipping container mall is what brings folks down to the Boxyard initially but they seem to really connect with it once they experience it. Almost everyone walks away with a very different (and favorable) opinion of the space versus what they thought it was going to be like going in. I also think the scale is appropriate and attractive. It is certainly something you need to experience to truly appreciate. Everyone has been highly complimentary to date.

Tulsa’s Central Business District. Image Credit: News On 6

Making retail work in an environment where holes exist in the walkable fabric can be difficult. How does Boxyard hope to solve some of the challenges to making retail work in Tulsa’s urban core?

I think bringing the “critical mass” with you really helps. When everyone is built out and open we will have 20 different businesses operating at the Boxyard. Someone can come and shop at more than one place, listen to some music, have a glass of wine, spend an afternoon. That is hard to do “one shop at a time” so having 20 at once helps.

How are you curating the businesses that will call The Boxyard home? What kind of attributes do you look for in your tenant mix?

Its difficult to describe what I look for in a tenant but as the Supreme Court said: I know it when I see it.

The 91-year-old Gates Hardware Building redevelopment was spearheaded by Nelson + Stowe in 2015. Image Credit: Metal Building Industries

The finished product located across the street from ONEOK Field, home of the Tulsa Drillers baseball team. Image credit: KSQ Design

You’ve done everything in Tulsa’s urban core from renovating historic, heritage properties to new infill construction. What are some of the issues facing downtown Tulsa and it’s surrounding districts and what needs to happen to solve some of those challenges?

I am so bullish on Tulsa that it is difficult for me to come up with very many issues that I see as a problem. We are just finishing a “walkability study” for Downtown Tulsa that I am looking forward to reviewing. We love our cars in Tulsa so I’m very happy to see the City focusing on walkability. We are also taking some steps to improve our public transportation which is always a challenge in cities like Tulsa where you don’t have the density to really support it.

The first floor of the Gates Hardware redevelopment is home to a brewpub collaboration between the Elgin Park restaurant and Marshall Brewing Co. Image credit: KSQ Design

KSQ Design occupies the second floor and is the present owner of the Gates Hardware Building. Image credit: KSQ Design

Capital can flow to anywhere in the country. Why did you choose to invest in Tulsa? What makes this a special place that is attractive for developers to stake their time, talent and treasure in?

Tulsa is a fantastic place, we are really one of the best kept secrets in the country. Construction costs and property taxes are low and you will find the City a willing partner in development. The quality of life is pretty high and the cost of living is pretty low. We also happen to be some of the nicest people on the planet. Come see us sometime and you will figure it out.

Next: An Interview with the project’s architect