Renovation Case Studies

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In a self-storage environment, nothing screams neglect more than faded doors and buildings and rust-stained roof panels. Rundown facilities are the white elephant of storage development—and the regret of planning boards from coast to coast. But there is hope. Site renovation can do wonders for even the oldest buildings, breathing life back into a property and restating it as a friend of the community. They can also add a missing component to your unit mix and keep you competitive.

Xtra Space Self Storage in Montgomeryville, Pa., learned this lesson. Opened in 1989, the site offered standard drive-up storage. In 1999, when the market was flooded with new shopping centers, homes and pharmaceutical companies, owner David McDowell noticed greater demand for smaller units and climate control. The following year, he contacted an industry building supplier to see what could be done to upgrade his business. They worked together to make key improvements:

  • The antiquated screw-down roof was replaced with an insulated standing-seam roof.
  • Insulated divider walls were added between exterior and interior units to allow for the addition of 5,000 feet of climate control.
  • “Dummy doors” were added to outside walls to attract the attention of the estimated 35,000 cars that pass the facility every day.

The entire construction process took about three weeks, and only a few tenants were temporarily inconvenienced with having to move their goods. The climate-controlled units are now 97 percent occupied and, according to McDowell, the facility has enjoyed a 30 percent increase in revenue. The renovation allowed Xtra Space to evolve with the market, meeting consumer demand and remaining competitive.

Mr. Storage

Not far away, Mr. Storage of Philadelphia faced a similar scenario. The local market had softened, yielding lower occupancies and making competition fierce. The facility’s owners watched as other developers cloned their business plan, adding important upgrades.

“The only way to swim with the sharks was to sharpen the product,” says Michael Doyle, vice president of operations. “When we found out there was going to be a 50,000-square-foot climate-controlled facility a block away, we realized we didn’t have any choice but to renovate. Confined by a small site, we had to convert.” The solution was to insulate a section of the building, adding 35 climate-control units.

Site renovation doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be well-planned with the unique attributes of the facility in mind. Upgrades are an easy way to add value to a property without starting from scratch. As the self-storage product (and its customers) becomes more sophisticated, the traditional older facility will not survive without improvements. Renovating may be the smartest thing you’ve done since opening.

Kevin Ford leads the renovation division of Miller Building Systems Inc., which designs, supplies and installs a full line of pre-engineered metal buildings. The company has specialized in East Coast construction since 1976. For more information, call 800.323.6464; e-mail kford@millerblgs.com; visit www.millerbldgs.com.

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