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Developer shares updated plans for what could be I-Drive’s first food hall market made up of shipping containers (updated)

Steel Chef’s Market is located in front of the Heart of I-Drive boutique hotel on 7200 International Drive.
Steel Chef’s Market is located in front of the Heart of I-Drive boutique hotel on 7200 International Drive. (Micah Bass)

Developer Micah Bass shared more insight into his proposed Steel Chef’s Market, a food hall along I-Drive made up of 26 shipping containers being planned in Orlando’s tourism corridor.

The project would front the Heart of I-Drive boutique hotel on 7200 International Dr. and feature around 20 artisanal retailers and restaurants— one of which will be a sushi bar located within a shipping container cantilevered over the driveway, Bass told GrowthSpotter.

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If approved, it would be the first time in I-Drive’s history that a lego-like fortress of shipping containers is used to create a food hall experience.

Building permits are in, but the developer has yet to receive site plan approvals from Orange County’s planning staff. Without the approvals, building permits cannot be reviewed, according to Olan Hill, a manager in the county’s planning division.

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According to him, there are certain outstanding review comments regarding elements of its design that do not meet the criteria set for the I-Drive District Overlay Zone. One of those includes the use of LED screens seen in the most recent rendition of renderings.

The developer is proposing to build a nature-inspired cigar lounge using modular container construction on a used car lot near Mills Park.

Carnahan Proctor & Cross Inc. is the civil engineer listed in plans submitted last year.

As proposed, Steel Chef’s Market can support around 5,300 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Features include rooftop and patio space, outdoor dining areas and an event area for live music.

The bathrooms, elevator, beer garden, and walking areas will be shipping containers and put together similarly to ways developers are stacking projects through the use of modular construction, Bass said. Containers will be handpicked from a utility trailer dealer in Apopka.

Bass said the name Steel Chef’s Market takes its influence from the steel containers and quality of food. “Whether it’s food or goods [the vendor] must fit in. I’m looking for the healthy, local, farm vibe,” he said.

Noah Mencia is a managing partner and leasing manager on the project. Precision Building Construction is the commercial general contractor.

The Heart of I-Drive boutique hotel was renovated and reopened in 2018. A year prior, some damage caused by Hurricane Irma prompted the hotel to temporarily close. Bass purchased the property in 2011 for $3.2 million.

Incorporating shipping containers into the architectural design of real estate is a trend playing out in most urban communities.

Near Orlando’s Ivanhoe Village, a development team led by Joseph Norwood is proposing to build a 10,000-square-foot cigar lounge with a possible hospitality component made out of shipping containers.

Boxi Park in Lake Nona is another example, where two levels of shipping containers host an array of food trucks, restaurants, live entertainment and bars. The Yard at Ivanhoe also utilized the shipping container design to some of its retail space.

The City of Orlando is also planning a container park concept by Ascend Studios that creates a gathering space at the corner of North Orange Avenue and West Robinson Street.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story incorrectly suggested construction may begin soon. The site plan for the project has not yet been approved and Orange County’s planning division is waiting for revisions as of May 28, 2021.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at arabines@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-5427, or tweet me at @amanda_rabines. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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