Development Basics for First-Time Self-Storage Builders in Canada

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Although there are numerous ways one can take on a first-time self-storage project, the scope of this article is to guide you through the maze of development challenges.

The Perfect Site

The first step to building your facility is to find several potential locations you consider ideal for a new self-storage site. Each property will have its own pluses and minuses. First, you need to verify with all local municipalities that the property is zoned for self-storage. Even if the municipality says the property is not zoned for storage, the deal is not dead. It may require obtaining a variance from the local committee of adjustment. The process can take as little as a few months to a few years depending on the committee’s schedule. Due to the time and cost associated with this requirement, the site has to be exceptional to warrant going through this process.

Is there potential for another facility being built within a 5-kilometer radius of your proposed site? Verify the demographics of your nearby competition, the population density and commercial marketplace. Each of these items helps determine if the site is viable for storage.

Why even discuss site selection when this article is dealing with construction? If the site location is inappropriate for self-storage success, then building the project is a waste of time and money.

Surveys, Studies and Permits

Once the site choice is narrowed to one or two potentials, evaluate the general condition of the property. Does it have an existing structure that can be converted into self-storage? What do the grounds provide? Do the grounds need significant clearing of brush or debris or is it marshy or paved?

Even if the site is in good condition, well-drained and has no water issues, you should invest in an environmental study and legal survey of the property. The investment of time and money on these two items is well spent. When looking for financing, you will need an environmental study showing there are no contamination issues that need to be resolved. This item alone may be a deal-breaker because lenders consider any project as a risk and will not loan money until the site is environmentally clean.

Determine Your Design

After obtaining a site review that includes all soil reports and a survey, you have chosen the property with the greatest potential. At this stage you should meet with your design team to identify the size of the project, scope of work, a start and finish date and, most important, a budget.

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