PORTLAND — A South Portland company is thinking inside the box to provide new ways to build business.
“We just developed the OpBox in hopes we create a platform for businesses to deploy,” Ben Davis said June 15, two days before an OpBox opened in Congress Square Park.
Davis and his sister, Emily Davis, hope the “Play Kiosk” placed beside the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel will become a visible example of the possibilities offered when storage containers are converted into community or commercial spaces.
The kiosk installed in Congress Square offers board games, art supplies and light workout equipment to use free of charge, Friends of Congress Square Park Executive Director Dela Taylor Murphy said in a June 12 press release.
“The Play Kiosk in the Square will be a colorful invitation for folks of all backgrounds and ages to gather for casual, outside – and likely serendipitous – fun,” she said.
The hours are noon-3 p.m. each Thursday and Friday, and 9 a.m.-noon each Saturday.
“It was so much fun seeing it in action yesterday,” Emily Davis said Monday. “It means so much to us. I played Jenga with two kids.”
The kiosk is operated in partnership with the Westin, Murphy said. The hotel sponsorship helps provide the games and power for the kiosk hookup.
Ben Davis said the company and Friends were linked by Amy Geren of Portland Downtown, the city’s downtown improvement district. He and Emily own the Portland Container Company, based on Lincoln Street in South Portland; OpBox is their chance to expand their markets.
OpBoxes are 8 by 16 feet, made from prefabricated sections that can fold open or down, and be customized for specific uses, Ben Davis said.
“There are options to be totally self-sustained, with electrical and propane, and even solar-powered to work off the grid,” he added.
The container panels are not made locally, but the customizing work is done at boatyards in Maine, Davis said, as is interior work.
“We are getting to a point where we have standardized models,” Emily Davis said about the available kiosk, retail pop-up and cafe styles.
In Congress Square, the kiosk also provides storage space for items used during park events. Ben Davis envisions they will also be used as offices for contractors.
With a three-year commitment to locate the kiosk in the park, OpBox gets visibility and the Friends get a space that enhances the evolution of Congress Square while redesign details and fundraising develop.
“Currently, the Design Development Committee is nearing completion of the design drawings, which include detailed renderings of Congress Square Park, the (Portland Museum of Art) plaza, and the Congress, High and Free street intersections. The design concepts will be used to raise money to implement the project,” Murphy said June 15
It’s been almost five years since Portland city councilors approved selling about 9,500 square feet of the 14,000-square-foot plaza area to the Westin owners. Backlash from the attempted sale led to a June 2014 referendum placing the area into the city land bank while also restricting how land bank parcels could be sold.
Following the referendum, the redesign process began anew. Eventually, landscape architecture firm WRT Design was selected to oversee the redesign, and New York-based sculptor Sarah Sze won a commission to create public art.
Murphy said a formal fundraising campaign is expected to begin in the fall.
Congress Square’s evolution and work by the Friends were big draws for the Davises, Emily Davis said.
“They have made this park so active and have brought the community together,” she said.
Emily Davis of OpBox said June 18 the company has some basic models for converted shipping containers that include community, retail and food service use. One in Portland’s Congress Square Park provides free loans of games and art supplies.
Ben and Emily Davis show the base model of a container the siblings can have customized for commercial and community uses.
Portland Container Co. stores assembled containers and the panels needed to make them in a former fuel tank in South Portland.