Kris Sonderup had hoped to be closer to his goal of stacking steel by now.
The bike shop owner and his wife, Julie, announced plans in April to break new ground in Lincoln — the city’s first homes built around 40-foot-by-8-foot shipping containers. And in May, they received city permission to build the modern duplexes, each using two containers, on land they own at 28th and Vine streets.
They’d intended to start construction last year but only got as far as demolition, when they leveled the first of three old homes behind their businesses, Cycle Works and Moose’s Tooth.
And then work stopped. But only temporarily, Sonderup said.
“The labor’s gotten a lot higher,” he said. “So we’re backing off just a bit.”
Construction bids came in up to 25 percent higher than they expected, he said. So they’ve narrowed the plan, from five duplexes to four. They plan to build the first unit this year, and hope to have the rest finished within a couple of years.
The first floor of each building will have a two-bedroom apartment and garage, the second-floor units will have a one-bedroom unit with a large deck. They combine the steel containers with traditional wood construction.
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But local contractors have no experience converting containers and don’t know what to expect, so they added construction time — and costs — to their bids, Sonderup said. But they’ll know more after the first is built.
“It’s totally unique to them. You don’t know if something is going to take more time,” he said. “But we just need to get in and get the one and get everything figured out.”
The couple was inspired by the Boxyard in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a commercial area built from storage containers. When they pitched their plan last year, it initially ran up against the city’s design standards because the modern housing was nothing like the surrounding pitched-roof homes in the Hartley neighborhood. Ultimately, though, the city’s Urban Design Committee waived the standards for the project.
The Sonderups now plan to approach the city seeking tax-increment financing for part of the project, which they also received when they built Hartley Flats, a 13-unit apartment building at 27th and S streets.
They plan to rent out the container housing, too, he said.
“It’s just going to be a cool piece of the 27th Street corridor.”