Cameron Jackson says he’s confident he can make a shipping container park filled with food, drink and retail thrive along Baton Rouge’s Florida Boulevard.
The 24-year old Baton Rouge native, Houston transplant and former Coastal Carolina University football player is hoping to open his first restaurant at Millennial Park by early April.
“I feel great,” Jackson says, standing at the construction site this week. “I feel like it can’t flop.”
Two shipping containers are currently under construction at the site, located at 3817 Florida Blvd. and within eyesight of Baton Rouge General’s Mid City campus.
The first container will house a Carribean-style restaurant, Jive Turkey, managed by GMG Management. A second container currently on the site will provide restroom space. The popular Big Cheezy food truck has also signed on to open a permanent location in the next phase, followed by The Private Shop, a vintage store.
Jackson has plans to tear down the black-painted brick building on the corner of the lot that formerly housed his grandfather’s barbershop.
Eventually, the building will be replaced with a three-story arrangement of the steel containers, filled with a mix of restaurants, retail and a rooftop bar.
Florida Street is poised to see an influx of traffic upon completion of the Government Street road diet, which is expected to divert some vehicles traveling between Mid City and downtown onto North Street and Florida Boulevard. As it stands now, about 20,000 cars pass the park every day, Jackson says.
That’s a number he expects only to grow.
The project fits in with other Florida Boulevard and north Baton Rouge redevelopment initiatives, including the recently announced plans to renovate and house the Bridge Center in a building just down the street.
Jackson launched Millennial Park with land given to him from his grandfather, capital from the real estate and clothing and supplement companies he owns, and investments from his parents. Jackson says he’s always felt natural ease with business, having launched his first two companies while he was still in college.
The tricky part has been navigating the permit process for a business concept entirely new to the Baton Rouge area, Jackson says. It’s taken him six months to get to the current stage—with help from the Baton Rouge North Economic Development District. According to the city’s online mapping data, the property falls in an economic development district—another card in the project’s favor.
Shipping containers have been utilized for restaurants and retail in cities from Miami to Sacramento, California. Jackson says he chose the containers after seeing them in Austin, Texas, and Jamaica recently, thinking they’d be a cost-effective way to launch a new business. While they may be cheaper than traditional construction, a lot goes into sourcing the right container—making sure it didn’t house potentially harmful chemicals—and getting it to the site and on the proper foundation, he says.
Jackson says he was inspired by the success of Red Stick Social, a unique gathering place where patrons can do a lot of different things. That, combined with the booming businesses along Government Street, are signs the Baton Rouge scene is adapting to the younger crowd, he says.
Once the buildout of the park is complete, Jackson expects it to become a social hub for the neighborhood.