Keeping Phases Competitive

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This Nationwide Self Storage facility updated its look with new landscaping, gates, signs, painted bollards and refinished metal.

If you operate a facility where you have built in phases, do all your customers want to be in the new section? Are you losing customers to the newer facility that just moved into your neighborhood? Have you even considered giving discounts to keep your facility filled?

The way to overcome these challenges is to make the older parts of your facility as desirable as the new areas. Create continuity throughout your property so differences between the newer and older phases are not so apparent to tenants. When adding phases to your facility, the goal is to update the original units so the whole facility gets a facelift.

The following ideas can also be used to upgrade your facility if competition moves in. If you choose to add some modern buildings, you can add many of the same components to the older ones. There are a number of ways to do this, ranging from simple and inexpensive to more complex and costly. General clean-up--such as washing buildings and doors and cleaning windows and store fronts--will conquer a number of your aesthetic issues, but sometimes more is necessary. Here are some suggestions:

Gates and Fencing

First impressions are extremely important. When tenants see an old, chainlink fence or rusty wrought-iron gates before they even enter the facility, what will they expect from the rest of the property? Consider replacing old chainlink fencing at the entry with an aesthetically pleasing lift gate. If your wrought-iron gate is rusty, coat with rust-inhibiting paint.

Landscaping

Landscaping should be spruced up. Replace overgrown or older plants with new shrubs or flowers. Use the same type of flora in all sections of your facility. If you have a landscaping theme in your older section, it should be continued in the newer one. There should be absolutely no weeds. Flowerbeds can be mulched to prevent weeds and cut down on watering needs.

Repairs

Repair corners of buildings where tenants may have done damage with moving trucks. Also repair or replace broken or bent gutters, metal trim or downspouts, which can be very unsightly. This is not expensive, but very effective.

If your asphalt is cracked or faded, you can make it look new again. Fill the cracks with a blacktop filler and sealcoat the entire property at one time to create uniformity. If you are going to refinish any metal or paint other surfaces, do so first so the oxidation or paint drips do not end up on the newly sealed driveways.

Repainting and Refinishing

Maintaining a color scheme is the best way to keep continuity between new and older phases of buildings. Most door manufacturers continue to offer the same colors as in the past, which makes it easy. You may find your older doors--five to 15 years old--have started to chalk or fade or are a slightly different color from the newer versions. Refinishing metal doors and buildings with a quality clear-coat can make the older metal look new again and will protect it from oxidation, corrosion, salt air and other damaging elements. Dull, faded window extrusions, air-conditioning units or gate boxes should also be refinished.


A protective clear-coat makes old, worn doors look new again.

Repaint stucco, wood or block buildings the same color throughout the facility. This should be done after refinishing the metal so any paint overspray or smudges that accidentally get on the metal can be cleaned without hurting the door finish.

Repaint curbs and bollards. Painting curbs can make a huge improvement in the first impression of your property and should be done in the same color scheme throughout the facility. Bollard covers are another way to create hassle-free continuity and are available for less than $50 each. If you use orange cones, replace them if they are faded or dinged.

Signs and Numbers

Some dull or faded signs can be refinished, but any that are cracked or peeling should be replaced. Check the lighting on your signs to ensure some parts are not burning more brightly or better lit than others. Replace any burnt-out bulbs.

It is also important to maintain continuity in your numbering systems. If your numbers are cracked or peeling, consider replacing them with quality vinyl numbers. There are pre-spaced numbers that are easy to reapply and will last for many years.

Building Exteriors

You can update the exterior of older buildings with exterior insulation and finish systems, known as EFIS. You can make them as fancy as you like with decorated block, scrolled faces, arches, columns, small details and bumpouts, or even change the lines of your buildings. They can be painted or finished to look just like stucco or stone.

Another way to update older buildings is to add a mansard roof or façade to update boxy buildings and give them a more substantial look. This could be added to the entire facility or just the visible roof lines to tie the entire facility together.

The Office

Don't forget the office. New paint and rearranging furniture and displays can give the office a whole new look and feel. Another way to present a new image to prospective customers and current tenants is to have new furniture, such as a desk, instead of the older counter.

Once all of your improvements have been made, consider having a grand re-opening or anniverary celebration. This is a good reason to invite the local businesspeople and the neighborhood "centers of influence" to a coffee-and-donut or wine-and-cheese party. You can show off all your hard work, and tenants can see your dedication to maintainance and upgrades. As long as you give older buildings their due, tenants will not be eager to abandon them for newer space.

Teresa Sedmak is the president and co-owner of Everbrite Inc., which manufactures EverbriteTM Protective Coating. She is also a licensed painting contractor with extensive experience and knowledge of protective coatings. For more information, visit www.renewstorage.com or www.renew-and-protect.com; call 800.897.9629; e-mail teresa@everbrite.net.

The author would like to thank the following individuals for their contributions to the above article: Lolita Bader, Quik # - Door Numbers; Jim Chiswell, Chiswell & Associates; Rick Dodge, Rib Roof Metals Inc.; David Edward, Golden State Self Storage; David Eldred, A Storage Place; Mark Henderson, Shorewood Mini Storage; Eric Hermes, Hermes Construction Co.; Ken Snyder, Capital Self Storage; and Caesar Wright, Mako Steel Inc.

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