Hilary Lee is on a mission to bring a sense of community to what she said feels like a forgotten section of Boise. The 29-year-old entrepreneur behind the Gluten Free Galaxy food truck is building a shipping container business park on the Bench.
Dubbed The Yard, the park will be an “incubation space” and a community hub for gathering, shopping, eating and working. Lee plans to rent 20- and 40-foot shipping containers kitted out with walls, floors, doors, windows, power, insulation and even equipment to small businesses, and she hopes to eventually have 40 renters thriving on the half-acre lot at the corner or Alpine and Garden streets. The Gluten Free Galaxy bakery, which will be housed in a 40-foot container, is set to open in February 2018 and will be the first. The rest of the park is scheduled to open in June.
“It’s such a cool concept because you can utilize something that’s old and make it new,” Lee said. “And in creating something new, you’re also housing a new business that will create other things.”
- Lex Nelson
- Hilary Lee, entering the under-construction shipping container that will soon be the Gluten Free Galaxy Bakery.
A tour of the lot revealed there’s a lot of work to be done: A portion of the space was cleared during the summer for block parties (complete with twinkling lights and live music) but the majority is covered in a jumble of half-finished shipping containers, car parts and utility buildings. The shipping containers are on wheels until Lee can get permits for permanent structures.
Although the task is daunting, Lee comes from a family of entrepreneurs whose help and experience has made her fearless. The plot is family owned, and her uncle is supporting her vision financially. After living in Las Vegas and seeing how successful the Downtown Container Park was there, she has no doubt the project will be a hit in Boise—specifically in that location.
“I feel like the Bench is lacking its heart, essentially,” Lee explained. “There are so many people out there now that are craving something cultural that they get to call their own that’s not a strip mall, so this is also going to be not only a business center but a community center in a way.”
Lee plans to stack the containers to create two-story business alleys and include green space for food trucks and community events. She hopes to renovate a large two-stall garage on the property into a community center that can be rented out for concerts, yoga classes and more. If the city will allow it, she would like to plant only edible vegetation, making the whole area a community garden for farm-to-table dinners and people facing food insecurity.
“I’m meeting with my architect to start the design so that we can start the whole planning and zoning process so that we can break ground by early spring, but for now, I want to be able to utilize those mobile units for things like pop-up shops,” Lee said, adding that The Yard is taking applications—and Sandpoint-based Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters may be the first to rent space.
Two key facets of Lee’s vision are affordability and security: Base level rent (not including power) will be $500 per month for a 20-foot container and $1,000 per month for a 40-foot container—below the average price for office or commercial space. Since Lee will also be working on site, renters will have access to their landlord for help and support, as well.
“I’ve always had little businesses, and so having someone who actually has your back and then having a space that you can actually call your own—it’s night and day,” Lee said. “Basically the concept is, not to sound cheesy, allowing people to actually make their dream come true.”
The Gluten Free Galaxy food truck is already parked on the property, and serves up gluten-free sandwiches, soups and baked goods created by Lee’s business partner Richelle Greene Tuesday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m.