Canadian Self-Storage: Developers Realize the Prize

Richard Leach Comments
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Canadian storage markets are bursting at the seams as skyrocketing consumer demand drives the building of new facilities. Unit rates have steadily increased as Canadian developers discover a mother lode of gold in the industry.

Over the past 10 years, there has been dramatic self-storage growth in nearly every province. The larger more urban areas, of course, have recognized the lion’s share of this development. But even the Midwestern cities have experienced significant positive changes in their individual storage markets.

The western reaches of British Columbia were the first to embrace the business. Over the past decade, industry growth has been nothing but stellar. During the mid-’90s, the average census for market penetration in the greater Vancouver area was approximately 1.7 square feet of storage per capita. The U.S. concept of off-premise rental storage echoed in Canada, but never as strongly as the current market penetration, pushing 3.2 square feet per capita. Across the continent, the greater Montreal metropolitan area has seen incredible growth just within the past five years to almost doubling all expectations.

Ontario and particularly the greater metropolitan Toronto markets have exploded over the past decade. Since 1997, market penetration at 1-square-foot per capita has increased to the present 2.5 square feet per capita. This growth is driven by new site construction or commercial buildings that have been retrofitted as conversions to self-storage.

Investment and development growth is not confined to the cities either. Suburban and rural Canadians, while slow at first, have come to heartily embrace the concept of self-storage. Suburbs that eight to 10 years ago may have had one or two storage facilities now have many new state-of-the-art sites competing for market share.

Farming the New Customer Crop

While initially slower to accept the self-storage concept than their U.S. neighbors, Canadian consumers not only fully grasp the concept but expect facilities to offer the latest amenities and conveniences. To attract this new crop of consumers, older, first-generation properties have to consider major improvements and offer more diverse products. The most common consumer-driven improvements are:

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