Shipping Containers synonym:

Grown Up Legos

Kelly Reynolds Talks Shipping Container Construction

The Cargo District would not be the place it is without its unique architecture and design. Therefore, we wanted to dive deep into a topic you have all been asking about: shipping containers. This week, Kelly Reynolds is here to share her wisdom on what it’s like to build with shipping containers or as she likes to call them, “grown up Legos”.


Kelly Reynolds started working with LS Smith Inc. (The Cargo District’s developer) about three years ago as the Project Manager. When Kelly started at LS Smith, her and Leslie Smith (LS Smith’s owner) had the dream to develop the area that is now The Cargo District. When the idea emerged she said, “it’s now or never”. Kelly is the kind of person who gets the job done, so throughout the last 3 years, Kelly has been fully involved with the creation of our community.

“The devil is in the details.”

When it comes to shipping containers, Kelly is an expert. Reynolds is here to answer our most frequently asking questions: Why do we decide to use shipping containers? Are they less expensive to build with? Are they stronger? Harder to build with? Better than a “regular” home?

Kelly made it clear that shipping container construction is not more affordable. If you want to build a home out of a shipping container, it will come out to about the same price as a stick build unit with insulation, framing, and drywall.  

She said when it comes to being expensive or not, “the devil is in the details”. If you want a shipping container with one door and one window, then it could ultimately be more affordable.

Along with shipping container construction being equally expensive as regular construction, it’s equally, if not more, challenging to build with them. Once you puncture a shipping container, it’s immediately less durable, so a great deal of care has to be taken to make sure that does not happen while using them as a structure. So why would we go through all the trouble to build with shipping containers in the first place?

“Shipping container construction is a different medium for building, which makes them stand out.”


Kelly explains that, “shipping container construction is a different medium for building, which makes them stand out in a heavily diluted construction industry.” At The Cargo District, shipping containers aren’t used for affordability or ease, but for their aesthetic, sustainability approach, and ability to stand out.  

When asked if she thinks the use of shipping containers was the reason why some of our members decided to settle down here Kelly says definitely. Some people came to The Cargo District for the aesthetic, some for the eco-friendly aspect, and some, just because it was a change. Simply put, “some people just think they’re really cool.”

Kelly makes that obvious, by stating, “were about 7 months into this now, and between phone calls and emails, I probably still get about 50-100 inquiries a week about The Cargo District.” She has seen many people stop, get out of their cars, and just take pictures of the area.

“I probably still get about 50-100 inquiries a week about The Cargo District.”

She recently was contacted by a woman who lost her home in Hurricane Florence. The woman was looking to build a new home that could withstand disaster and was interested in shipping container construction.

She liked the durability of a shipping container (yes, yet another reason why shipping containers rule) which would make sense, because she did not want her house being destroyed again. On the other hand, she liked them, just because she really liked the way the containers look. Kelly explains that this is a part of the reason why shipping containers are so attractive to people because, “it’s a really neat idea for people who like form and function.”

From Kelly’s point of view, she says that shipping containers are simply more fun to build with. She calls them grown up legos and likes the fact that a shipping container that isn’t normally supposed to be used for construction, can turn into a space with purpose, whether it be a home, an office, or even a coffee shop.

“It’s a really neat idea for people who like form and function.”

Five years from now, Kelly still plans to be a part of The Cargo District, but possibly in a different way. She would like to take her appreciation and knowledge of shipping container construction, and teach people what she knows. She wants to have the ability to travel and consult in other countries or states about shipping container construction and how to integrate it into communities. People are extremely interested in this new medium for building and Kelly wants to tell them, “once you penetrate the side of steel, this is the proper way to flashing something, or these are the roof systems that work best on containers.”

She explains that even though she is a very driven person that loves to work, she would love to travel more and cut back a little. Just by talking with her for a short time, it was obvious that she will excel in teaching all about repurposing shipping containers.  

Regarding The Cargo District in a couple years, Kelly sees it as becoming one of the staples of Wilmington, North Carolina. The Cargo District is on an upswing and people want to be a part of it. Kelly says, “The Cargo District will be like South Front or Front Street. Most people that live in this town, or are familiar with it, will know exactly what you’re talking about when you say ‘The Cargo District”. Thank you Kelly, for being one of the people who has made the dream of The Cargo District a reality.


Meet the Author and Photographer: Tori Gatanis is a Junior at UNC Wilmington, studying Communication and Marketing. She is currently an intern at the Cargo District and loves the fact that it is dog friendly. Tori is passionate about photography and loves to capture memories when she is with friends and family.