Ship shape! Container unit flea market to fill empty Albee Square site

Ship shape! Container unit flea market to fill empty Albee Square site
Cook + Fox Architects

A souped-up flea market is headed for Downtown this summer, filling the gaping hole where the Albee Square shopping center once stood.

The site is ultimately going to be CityPoint, the long-stalled mixed-use development tower that finally broke ground last July after receiving a controversial $20-million tax-exempt federal stimulus in 2009.

CityPoint is on track to have the first segment of apartments and upscale retail completed in 2012, but in the interim, the site will become DeKalb Market, a temporary shopping center constructed from shipping containers pieced together like Leviathan Legos.

“The intent of the market is to provide an alternative to a typical retail environment,” said Jessica Tolliver of Urban Space Management, the group putting together the market for a development team headed by Acadia Realty Trust.

Of course, CityPoint itself will provide a retail environment — though a bit upmarket from the Albee Square Mall. While construction continues, the area that fronts Flatbush Avenue Extension and Willoughby Street will become home to local artists, small business owners, food vendors — all housed in the quasi-permanent steel shipping containers.

“The sense was to create not just a cheap flea market selling tube socks,” said Mike Weiss, executive director of the Metrotech Business Improvement District, who backs the developers’ interim use.

Shipping container-created markets are gaining popularity in Europe, but they are uncommon in the United States, a large country mostly situated to the west of the East River. As a result, getting the necessary permits has been a challenge that has pushed the opening date back.

“It’s a new concept for the city, so the permit process is moving along slowly,” said Tolliver, predicting that all the red tape would be cut by early summer.

And this is not just a one-season affair. As the CityPoint tower rises, the shipping containers will remain, as they are equipped with heat.

“The market can be year-round,” said Tolliver.

Shipping containers like these will be used for a flea market at the CityPoint tower site in Downtown this summer.