Brexton LLC Construction Manager for ‘Cargominium’ Project

New developer seeking to resume ‘Cargominium’ project in east-side opportunity zone

By Tristan Navera  – Staff reporter, Columbus Business First

The nonprofit Nothing Into Something Real Estate is building a 25-unit housing complex out of recycled shipping containers in Columbus.

One of Columbus’ most creative affordable housing development ideas could move forward again soon.

Graham Allison and Brian White have formed a new Columbus-based entity, Opportunity Zone Development Group, which has submitted a Form D to the Securities and Exchange Commission to raise $4.2 million to resume work on the “Cargominium” development at 1562 Old Leonard Ave.

First proposed by faith-based Nothing Into Something Real Estate Inc., that development would feature recycled steel shipping containers turned into affordable homes, a workaround to rising housing costs. The 25-unit project was to have 640-square-foot, two-bedroom units serving homeless and at-risk people.

NISRE Inc. had envisioned the development in 2016 with AES Development LLC, ChelsiTech and some other partners, but work didn’t proceed after problems arose with the developer. Michele Reynolds, NISRE Inc.’s principal, said her group started talking with Allison last fall.

“Because it’s a unique type of project that hasn’t been done in Ohio, there were some barriers and code things we weren’t expecting,” she said. “But it actually helped us get ahead of the curve because the timing lined up with the opportunity zone program.”

A federal tax program, opportunity zones are an economic incentive tool to promote investment in disadvantaged areas, including this tract of land northeast of downtown just off I-670.

Some initial work has been done on the project, and it’s had a shorter development time than other projects, Allison said.

“This project is tailor-made for opportunity zones,” he said.

Brexton LLC will be construction manager for the project, which could resume work as soon as significant funds are raised.

Reynolds said the cargominiums will be useful especially given the shortage of affordable housing. An estimated 54,000 households already spend 30% or more of their income on housing, according to the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio. And the shortage of housing supply drives up the cost of existing housing, even without a specific focus on affordable development.