If you ever drive down N. 13th Street right in front of the old ISD building, you may have noticed a little clearing on the opposite side with what looks like old shipping containers stacked on top of one another. But it's neither a new scrap yard nor a storage unit; what you’re looking at are new green, livable homes for the people of Corsicana.
TJ and Hillary Nichols opened up the Green Mailbox Group shipping container duplexes to the public Saturday, Oct. 7 and are ready for leasing. This is the first modernized, minimal-style housing complex to arrive in Corsicana, and may be the stepping stone to potentially more units like this. Rent will be $1,175 per month, and consists of two bedroom/two bathroom lot with two parking spaces.
The Nichols have collected old shipping containers and recycled them by redesigning the interiors to have insulated white walls, treated wood flooring and electrical outlets and appliances.
“We're not just throwing used shipping containers up here,” said TJ. “We're doing our due diligence and adding value to the community.”
TJ and Hillary held an open house Saturday and I was able to tour the inside of the duplexes while they explained to me how the lots are built. Being 26 years old and recently out of college, I've had my fair share of different apartments in the past years; off-campus student housing varies depending on location. From my initial walkthrough of the main hallway when you first enter, I was immediately impressed with the cleanliness and style of the interior.
To give an accurate idea of the complex, I'm going to first lay out the pros and cons of these apartments, followed by a conclusive summary based on conversations I've had with others:
Considering the location is brand new, all the units are untouched and perfectly clean. The style of the apartments are an industrial modern look that you would find in the city. Every room has its own air conditioning unit and ceiling fan, so ventilation and heating/cooling is never an issue.
The front door is a keyless entry, only needing a key-code to enter, but there is also a deadbolt available for those wishing a little extra security. All units have their own designated trash and recycling bins, a community mailbox, fenced-off location and a small community grill.
The living rooms all contain a complimentary 50 inch flat-screen TV mounted to the wall included in the rent, along with normal kitchen appliances and a washer/dryer. The bedrooms are within their own shipping container with their own full bathrooms, although the room on the back end has its bathroom in the hall.
The biggest attraction is that these apartments are completely green. The walls are foam insulated and all light fixtures are LED. They use a tankless water heater that allows up to four hours of continuous hot water (if left on for that long). Combined with low flow toilets and low-e windows (temperature efficient windows), the average electric and water bill per month is less than $50 per lot. Splitting with a roommate makes it a very cheap electric bill.
Every apartment will have its downside too, even green homes made out of shipping containers. The obvious downside is space; the containers are long and skinny, which is an unusual shape to which people will need to adjust. Another issue concerns the structural design of the complex; all the lots are raised and require stairs to get in and out of both the top and ground floor. This means that housing for the disabled – especially those with wheelchairs – may be out of the question currently.
The kitchen is a bit on the small side in terms of cabinet space. You'll notice that walking in you have plenty of walking room, but that's because the walls aren't lined with numerous cabinets. You'll either have to find a smart way to pack away your utensils or invest in a little extra furniture to make up for lack of storage in the kitchen.
The location also affects parking as the duplexes are compacted in a tight-fitting lot, forcing the parking lot to be small. It can be quite difficult to maneuver should it ever fill up, especially if you have a large vehicle; I noticed when pulling in with me and one other truck, the other truck had a hard time getting out of the parking lot.
Personally, I like the apartments. They have a snazzy modern look to them and are perfect for those who don't require many “things” for living. And I empathize this fact: you have to enjoy a minimalistic, Spartan lifestyle. I'm a young adult, currently single with no major family obligations should I go out on my own. I'm already used to living with very few possessions as that's what it was like for me in the military too.
Having said that, these apartments may be difficult to live in for a startup family. Not impossible, but it may be challenging. You have to remember that Green Mailbox Group is not a typical house; it's new and different compared to what everyone is used to. You have to go into this remembering it's not a house; you're living in a recycled green home, the next step toward an energy-efficient future.
The Nichols hope to eventually expand and build more homes much like these duplexes for Corsicana, which definitely needs more housing as we've been struggling with available housing for a long time.
“We would definitely want to work with Corsicana for another project,” Hillary said. “We have to prove ourselves with this first location and live up to the promises we made with these apartments. I feel like we've come through with that here.”
Green Mailbox Group Apartments
Price: $1,175 per month.
$35 application fee
$800 security deposit + 1st month's rent at signing.
1-year lease term.
$100 pet fee, $25/month per rent.
2 bed | 2 bath (non-furnished)
2 parking spaces
50 inch flat-screen TV
Tankless water heaters
Low flow toilets