RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Heavy rain and the lingering effects of COVID-19 couldn’t keep the crowds away from Boxyard RTP’s soft launch on Thursday afternoon.
In what marked a new stage in the Triangle’s re-opening, attendees came out in full force, ditching masks and social distancing to celebrate the “new hub” – a 18,000-square-foot development of retail and dining built from repurposed shipping containers.
“We are resourceful, talented, and flexible,” Ray Trapp, Research Triangle Foundation’s (RTF) vice president of strategic engagement, told a 200-strong crowd gathered at 700 Park Offices Drive, just a stone’s throw from the site, after the event was moved indoors because of thunderstorms.
“We were determined to celebrate Boxyard RTP, rain or sun, monsoon or drought, making sure that we thank all the wonderful partners that made this day possible.”
Years in the making, the site ushers in a new era for the aging office park at N.C. 54 and Davis Drive.
Inspired by a similar facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the $7-million project was spearheaded by RTF and is set on 12 acres of the former IBM campus. It involved converting 40 shipping containers into a new complex of restaurants and retail stores, an amphitheater, a dog park and sculpture gardens.
A handful of tenants – including Lawrence Barbecue, Medicine Mama’s and Buzzy Bakes – are planning to officially open for business this Saturday, June 5. The remaining tenants are expected to open later in the summer.
Dorian Bolden, owner of Durham’s popular Beyu Caffé, is among them.
“To see how we’ve been able to weather the storm as Durham changed, and now coming into the RTP area, we could not be more excited to be a part of this family,” he said.
Sift Media CEO and founder Jud Bowman, who serves chairman of the RTF’s board, also appeared as part of the lineup of speakers.
“Personally, for me, I live in downtown Durham, I’ve got friends in Raleigh and Chapel Hill. I can’t wait to meet here centrally in the park at Boxyard to get a coffee or beer with friends.”
Bowman also paid special tribute to George “Smedes” York, the two-term Raleigh mayor and third-generation property developer who played “a key part” in making it happen.
York served as chairman of RTF for over a decade and remains a member of the board.
“It takes a lot of vision to pull off a project like this. It’s a big risk. And that vision started with Smedes,” Bowman said.
After the ceremony, attendees continued to mingle, enjoying food and drink from makeshift stands set up by Boxyard RTP vendors.
That included Haley Bunting, owner of Thirteen West, a women’s clothes store based in Carrboro. She is one of four entrepreneurs selected to open a second storefront at Boxyard as part of the PopBox program.
Coupled with a micro-grant from NC IDEA and the Research Triangle Foundation, the mission of is to propel women and BIPOC-owned businesses back into the market amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the course of Boxyard RTP’s first year, these four businesses will consecutively take three-month residencies in a 320-square-foot space.
“Because we’re so small, there’s not a lot of eyes on us. This will be good to meet new clients, but also just to show people what we’re doing,” said Bunting, who expects to be up and running by the end of June.
“It is honestly an honor. I am so thankful that this was a part of coming off of COVID.”