Downtown Phoenix’s newest marketplace, The Churchill, opened on September 1 and will introduce shoppers to ten local businesses. The project is the latest in the neighborhood to be constructed entirely from decommissioned shipping containers—the third in three years delivered by Phoenix-based design-build firm Local Studio.
“We saw The Churchill as an opportunity for placemaking in our own neighborhood,” said Local Studio founder Brian Stark, whose office is three blocks away from the project. “It’s an unexpected place that will bring people together to meet, eat, shop and share experiences—and we wanted the structure itself to reflect that sense of community.”
The Churchill began as a passion project for local entrepreneurs Kell Duncan and Hartley Rodie. They envisioned a creative community gathering space that would bring together food, drinks, retail, art and entertainment in the heart of the fast-growing downtown area. The co-founders handpicked the Arizona-based businesses that will call The Churchill home, giving many of them their first physical location.
“We’ve been interested in a long time in socially-minded development and bringing something hyper-local to downtown,” said Rodie. “There’s a personal story attached to each of our tenant’s business concepts that make them part of Phoenix’s cultural fabric. We’re excited for the community to get to know them in this setting.”
The 14,000 square-foot place-making urban infill project is comprised of 19 total containers. Each maintain their original doors and wood floors, and parts of containers were used to build the upstairs deck. The center courtyard is covered and cooled with evaporative coolers and giant fans. Handcrafted tables and seats maintain the theme and were constructed with refurbished wood shipping pallets.
Perhaps the most ambitious feature of the project is a container propped up vertically 30 feet on the southwest corner of the complex. Prominent Phoenix artist Pete Deise cut the container’s steel and twisted it—seemingly flipping it inside out—into a sculpture sure to become an icon of the entire project.
This is the second collaboration between Deise and Local Studio to bring large-scale public sculptures to their downtown projects. Other established and emerging Phoenix artists contributed to The Churchill with original murals, and Duncan and Rodie have plans to attract more public art in the future.
The Churchill’s name comes from its neighborhood—Evans Churchill—which is nestled downtown between the central business district and the historic Roosevelt Row arts district. The area is home to a diverse mix of commercial buildings and bungalow homes. The Churchill, with its distinct, industrial look is sure to draw spectators curious to see up close how a cluster of 40-foot shipping containers come together like building blocks to form an urban shopping center.
The container appeal to Stark isn’t just aesthetic. The steel corrugated boxes are more durable than any building material on the market today, he says. The construction time is reduced by half compared to a project of the same scale built with traditional materials, and when properly insulated, the containers are more energy efficient than conventional buildings.
Containers are becoming a signature in Local Studio’s growing portfolio. Stark and former partner Wes James pioneered using shipping containers as viable building material—in 2015, they built the first multi-family housing container project in the U.S. just a few blocks west on Grand Avenue. Less than two years later, Stark and Local Studio opened theOscar, a mixed-use residential and office project, in collaboration with the City of Phoenix.
The two market-rate projects have been consistently occupied, often with long waiting lists, and Airbnb rentals in both locations are booked months in advance for tourists looking for a one-of-a-kind vacation home.
“Using shipping containers is more than a trend—it’s been popular in Europe for decades,” Stark said. “These projects are built quickly, sustainably, and bring an authenticity to a neighborhood—there’s huge interest both regionally and nationally. Other cities are looking to Phoenix as a model for how to adapt their building codes to attract container projects.”
Stark and his team hope that The Churchill introduces the container development style to a broader audience, as their first exclusively commercial project. Some of the tenants already have notable followings—such as the Arizona-pride clothing company State Forty Eight—and will likely draw people from across the Valley to dine and shop.
The full list of businesses opening at The Churchill include:
• State Forty Eight, a homegrown, local apparel brand
• Pobrecito, a new cocktail concept from the team behind Counter Intuitive and Undertow
• The Brill Line, featuring local craft beers
• Provecho, a new restaurant concept featuring flavors from Central Mexico
• Sauvage wine shop
• Freak Brothers Pizza, a Neapolitan-style pizza food truck’s first stand-alone restaurant
• Foxy Fruit, a smoothie and acai-bowl concept
• Gather, a lifestyle retail concept
• Cosas artisan boutique
• Breadwinner, a new restaurant concept by Culinary Mafia Group, the team behind Scottsdale’s EVO
The Churchill is located at 901 N. 1st St. in downtown Phoenix.