The economic potential of a shipping container food hall

Ten miles east of downtown Los Angeles, an 8,500 square-foot food hall is under construction in Montebello, a predominantly Latino neighborhood with a downtown that’s been left behind economically. And to revitalize downtowns, sometimes you have to get creative.

That’s where BVLD MRKT, the food hall comes in. It will incorporate repurposed shipping containers — a trend in restaurant spaces — to bring together local vendors to the downtown street corner. Founder Barney Santos wants it to be an indoor and outdoor space with a courtyard where people can eat, drink and build community. 

The courtyard of BLVD MRKT, with shipping containers on the left and an old carpet store building on the right. (Photo by Daisy Palacios/Marketplace)

The food hall, BVLD MRKT, will incorporate repurposed shipping containers — a trend in restaurant spaces — to bring together local vendors to the downtown street corner. Founder Barney Santos wants it to be an indoor and outdoor space with a courtyard where people can eat, drink and build community. 

“You can grab pizza, you can grab coffee from Oaxaca, you can grab pupusas,” Santos said. “You can have a great time here where you feel comfortable, where, more importantly, you’ll feel seen.”

This project has long been in the works for Santos. After living in downtown LA and other surrounding cities, he moved to Montebello and spent about a year doing community research — speaking to local government, business owners and members of the community.

“When I came here to Montebello, there was a sort of stark reality from where like downtown Los Angeles was to where this place was,” Santos said.

He said communities like Montebello are experiencing economic downturns because millennials are getting more educated, obtaining better jobs with better pay and, ultimately, are leaving for more economically advanced communities, which leaves behind the communities they lived in.

BLVD MRKT is located on the corner of Whittier Boulevard and Sixth Street in Montebello. (Photo by Angela Pedraza)

“And so, this leaves a gap in these markets,” Santos said.

His goal is to help revitalize Montebello’s economy by creating a place that can act as an anchor to retain talent and attract millennials to come and stay.

“I think what really matters to me is investing in our communities,” Santos said. “I think it’s time for our communities to have things like this. I think it’s important for us.”

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