Detroit building pop-up shops out of shipping containers

Construction is expected to be completed by July.

A shipping container is stacked on top of two bright yellow shipping containers. Behind them you can see part of a mural that says "What Up Doe."

Shipping container pop-up shops are being constructed on Dexter Avenue in Detroit, Mich. on May 5, 2023.

On a vacant lot on Dexter Avenue and Tyler Street in Detroit south of the Davison Freeway stand three bright yellow shipping containers, with a fourth stacked across the top of them.

When complete, the complex will be a temporary venue for pop-up retailers, local art and food trucks. The project was conceived of by the City of Detroit as a way to help revitalize Dexter Avenue, the main thoroughfare between the Russell Woods, Nardin Park and Dexter-Linwood neighborhoods.

“You can’t build a neighborhood without a strong commercial corridor,” says Dave Walker, design director for Detroit’s planning and development department. “We felt like we had so many vacant lots on the corridor that we needed to establish some type of retail base. So, we established this pop-up.”

Listen: Temporary pop-up space coming to Dexter Avenue in Detroit

The shipping containers will hold space for up to four shops at a time. Three companies have already signed lease agreements, according to Kaci Michael of The Propitious Spot, a resident of Russell Woods and the property manager for the pop-ups.

The initial businesses are Lash A’Mour, AutyD’s clothing and accessories, and the Sweetest Touch, which sells smoothies, chocolate covered fruit and chocolate sculptures.

“You know how they make cakes look like shoes? She does that with chocolate,” Michael says about Sweetest Touch.

Entrepreneurs, entertainers and food truck owners looking to get involved can fill out this form.

Shipping containers are stacked on top of each other as a mural that says "What Up Doe?" can be seen in the background.

In addition to the pop-up shops, the second-level shipping container will be a canvas for local artist Olayami Dabls, the force behind the mirrored mosaics at the African Bead Museum. The building was designed by Dokes Design Architecture (DDA). The city says construction is expected to be completed by July.

“We really want to create a thriving hub for the community and this is the start of it,” says Gabrielle Sherrer, a Detroit planner and project manager for the pop-up.



Starting in August, Dexter Avenue itself is expected to receive a makeover, with the street getting redone with bike lanes, new light posts, new bus stops, trees and places to sit. The streetscape improvements are funded with $10 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The pop-up is estimated to cost between $300-$450,000 and is being paid for with money from Detroit’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund, which uses money from foundations and corporate partners to revitalize main streets in specific Detroit neighborhoods.

Walker says the pop-up is temporary and, after four years, will be removed while city officials will seek proposals for a permanent development on the site.

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  • Laura Herberg
    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.