Sunday, March 26, 2023

Coworx open in the Cargo District, developer wants at least 2 more acres downtown

Jacqueline Chase opens up a large, “up-cycled” shipping container, to be used as office space through Coworx, a collaborative workspace initiative. (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)

WILMINGTON—Wilmington’s first shipping container village is here to stay.

Coworx, a collaborative workspace initiative, officially opened earlier this month in the Cargo District. Developer Leslie Smith is generating an entire district in downtown Wilmington to revitalize underused areas and attract resourceful entrepreneurs.

Shipping containers “up-cycled” from Wilmington’s ports are the backbone of Coworx’s — and the Cargo District’s — business model.

“Development for The Cargo District will happen in three stages over the next three years,” Smith wrote in a statement.

Smith owns 2.6 acres of land in the district, currently on the blocks of South 16th, Castle Street and Queen Street. He plans to acquire a total of 5 acres in the coming years as the district grows.

Private office spaces, formed from “up-cycled” Hanjin shipping containers divided into thirds, is available through Coworx, now open on 1608 Queen Street in downtown Wilmington. (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)


Now, businesses, both small and large, have the option to rent a space within Coworx’s industrial downtown location.

At 1608 Queen St., Coworx has room for 30 “coworking members” and is at about half capacity, according to Jacqueline Chase, director of marketing for the Cargo District. 

Recently, Coworx added local businesses Half United and Encore Pub to their collaborative lineup, which already included SIS Digital, SkyNav, Ebbing Branding + Design and others.

Large, “warehouse” office space, occupied by SIS Digital, is part of Coworx’s multi-unit workspace initiative. (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)

SIS Digital occupies Coworx’s largest, “warehouse” space, while Encore Pub will occupy an entire 20 foot long shipping container beginning Dec. 1.

Single office space, formed by dividing a 20 foot container into thirds, is available for 575 a month, including amenities like wi-fi and time in the conference room.

On Monday, the Cargo District accepted its grand prize from Customizely, a local startup which specializes in custom screen printing on high-end apparel.

As part of its own launch, Customizely offered $2,500 in custom apparel for the lifetime of a business in a randomly selected contest that the Cargo District won.

Jessica Pham (left), Jacqueline Chase (center) accept Customizely’s grand prize from their prelaunch giveaway from Mattias MacDowell(right). (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)

Cargo Village

Renderings of the Cargo District's live-work apartments, with loft-style living space, bedroom on the second floor (top drawing) and retail space on the first floor (bottom drawing). (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY OF THE CARGO DISTRICT)
Renderings of the Cargo District’s live-work apartments, with loft-style living space, bedroom on the second floor (top drawing) and retail space on the first floor (bottom drawing). (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY OF THE CARGO DISTRICT)

Next week, additional units are set to arrive that will eventually form Cargo District’s live/work apartment offerings.

Designed by Rob Romero of Romero Architecture, the apartments will be formed by two, 20-foot long shipping containers stacked on top of each other, with large glass windows on either side. Intended to function as both residential and commercial space, Chase says how future tenants choose to use the space is entirely up to them.

The owner, Bryan Kristof, and Smith share a like-minded vision of targeting people seeking “tiny houses, smaller homes, and living within our means,” Chase said.

Their ideal tenant is “not so interested in the ridiculously huge house and yard and really just need a functional space that makes sense for the right price,” Chase said. “I think that’s kind of the market were tapping into here locally, with local materials,” she said.

Building for the apartments will begin next month. Apartments will become available in installments of three at a time, on the corner of 16th and Queen Street.

The 16th Street block of Queen Street is currently closed, as utilities are being added to make way for the future apartments.

Coffee Shop 

A couple of local hopefuls are pining for the Cargo District’s secured drive-through coffee shop. The Cargo District has not officially selected who will occupy the soon-to-be renovated Castle Street Motors location, already fit for a drive-through design.

The future site of the Cargo District’s drive-through coffee shop, which will renovate Caste Street Motors standing facility. (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)

Coworx’s owner wants a local, passionate tenant to add to the growing Castle Street collection of growing businesses.

Food Trucks

For Chase, it’s the food trucks that have her most excited to be in the Cargo District.

“I would definitely say that’s my favorite part of the project,” Chase said. 

Down the line, the Cargo District plans to add a Food Truck Park, which would include utility hookups and a commissary kitchen.

“Eventually, you want to see these trucks get so big that they can open up their own permanent place,” Chase said. “I just hope that it helps grow food truck business here and helps keep the momentum going.”

For now, the Cargo District has booked a food truck to be on site every Friday, excluding holidays, to generate buzz and fill hungry bellies:

  • Friday, Dec. 1 – 2 Bros Coastal Cuisine, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 8 – T’Geaux Boys, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 15 – A&M Red Food Truck, 11:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 29 – Tasty Tees, 11 p.m. – 2 p.m.

Information on Coworx’s collaborative workspace offerings can be found on its website, and interested individuals can preview the Cargo District’s apartment renderings here.

Johanna Ferebee can be reached at or @j__ferebee on Twitter

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