Inside Self-Storage Magazine 07/2004: The Big Box Project
|Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.|
|By: Kimberly Hundley|
|Posted on: 07/01/2004|
The Big Box Project
|Big-Box conversions renderings of Willow Creek Center, due to open in August.|
U.S. Storage Depot’s focus on the business customer could be an important new direction for self-storage, according to Hagen. “Today, everyone in this industry is designing their facilities, advertising and marketing programs for the residential user,” he says. “We’re doing a lot of unique things to adapt to the changing needs of businesses and our society. We want to be innovative and service those people. That’s what our mission is, and what makes us a little different.”
Diversification allows U.S. Storage Depot to combat a persistent self-storage handicap as well: the winter seasonal slump. Offices are let under annual or bi-yearly leases, leveling off the occupancy rate. But the real advantages, according to Hager, are security and financing.
“A combined-use project gives you different sources of income, helps increase profits, and makes earnings more secure because you don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” Hagen says. “Banks love us now. It gives them greater security in their investment.”
Some predict the nation’s self-storage market is reaching saturation. To remain viable, Hager advises developers to look for new ways to draw customers and secure financing. “The beauty of the U.S. Storage Depot concept is it’s adaptable and can efficiently use big boxes, regardless of the size or configuration of the building and land.”
The model also follows a national trend in city planning in which retail and residential developments are integrated for safer, more efficient land use. Big-box conversion allows developers to penetrate prime retail locations for self-storage. Willow Creek’s storage business, for example, has no competition in the area, because zoning simply doesn’t allow for a single-use storage facility.
U.S. Storage Depot has several other projects on the go, including an innovative selfstorage facility under construction near Ann Arbor, Mich. Blueprints include a climate-controlled, three-story building; an outdoor single-story structure; and a building designed especially for contractors, with 14- foot ceilings and 10-by-10 doors. When completed, the facility will be 160,000 square feet, making it the largest self-storage shop in the state.
Hagen is proud of his team’s accomplishments and eager to share the big-box concept. “I’ve known a lot of people in the industry for many years, and a lot of developers out there are hurting. I’d like to give them some insight. We all learn from new ideas— someone pioneers an area and other people will modify it and possibly improve upon it.” U.S. Storage Depot is in negotiations to develop a similar big-box conversion in the Chicago area, while seeking other ideal sites across the country. Hagen says every community is different and needs to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. But experience should make the process easier next time.
“We have assembled a team that is expert in working with cities and contractors,” he says. “It takes a lot of negotiations when you’re introducing something unfamiliar and untried. People are a little reluctant and nervous. I started on the Willow Creek Center three and a half years ago, and it’s just now being completed. Even with the builders and engineers, the first thing you hear is, ‘Well, we haven’t done this before.’ Climate-controlled self-storage takes a certain kind of engineering that is different than a shopping center, so you have to blend the two together.”
Hagen says big-box conversion with multiple uses is an idea whose time has come. Developers of the future will have a whopping head start, too. When selling retailers and zoning boards on the concept, they can point to Willow Creek Center as a living example of property once thought dead.
U.S. Storage Depot has more than 22 years experience in the self-storage industry, designing and building award-winning facilities. For information, call 734.944.1803.