Self-Storage Developers Overcome Zoning/Building Challenges Through Persistence and Creativity

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Visible and Secure in Las Cruces
For self-storage developer and owner Max Schroeder, the challenge was taking advantage of a reasonably priced parcel near a main thoroughfare in Las Cruces, N.M., even though it was not entirely visible and was zoned for residential, not self-storage. “What we found is if we can buy land zoned as residential and convert it to commercial, we can triple the value when it’s rezoned,” Schroeder says. Because this facility isn’t on the main road, it was designed to take advantage of traffic from a nearby grocery store.

He purchased the property and subdivided it, leaving the existing home as a rental property, then creating a self-storage portion and an additional parcel out front for another business. The downside to Schroeder’s plan was it took about a year to obtain zoning approval. The city also required him to pay for significant upgrades to bring city water and sewer roughly 2,000 feet to the property. While this was a major expense, the bargain price of the land and otherwise good location made the project feasible.

As Schroeder designed the site, steps were taken to maximize exposure, minimize maintenance and provide high security for the facility, Discount Self Storage. “We wanted to say ‘Hey, we’re self storage,’ but do it in a southwest style,” Schroeder said. To achieve this, he surrounded the site with a combination of stone fence and perimeter buildings with parapet walls coated in stucco. The walls feature false doors and decorative trim, which look attractive yet signal the property is a self-storage business. The 1,800-square-foot office/manager apartment continues the southwest theme with stucco walls and a Spanish-tile roof.

Security was also a concern. While there isn’t a huge crime problem in the area, Schroeder wanted to reduce the occasional graffiti that comes with an urban location, so he installed a chain-link fence around the property edge. The city required a landscaped buffer zone between the residential neighbors and the self-storage business, and this was installed between the tall stucco wall and chain-link fence. The buffer area contains a mix of gravel and oak trees selected for minimal maintenance.

Since the site isn’t on the main road, it was designed to take advantage of traffic from a nearby grocery store. The parapet walls, signage and office structure are as tall as allowable and can be seen clearly from the grocer’s parking lot. The main artery is exceptionally busy, so the slightly removed location has the benefit of providing easier access for customers coming in with trucks and trailers.

The property has a 12-foot drop from one end to the other. In the second phase, Schroeder specified buildings roofed with a “rolling step.” This simplifies the design by eliminating an elevation step and the accompanying trim, and gently angling the roof sheets. Inside, ramps provide ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) access from one elevation to the next.

Finding the Diamond in the Rough
It seems every developer faces some obstacles when it comes to building self-storage. The key to success is to persist and overcome those hurdles, perhaps even turning them into a positive aspect of the site. Storage businesses can be adapted to fit hilly or odd-shaped parcels of land that other businesses reject. Seeing past irregularities and envisioning the potential of a site is a part of many success stories in our industry. Good luck finding your diamond in the rough!

Steve Hajewski is the marketing manager at Trachte Building Systems, which designs, manufactures and erects a full line of pre-engineered and customized steel self-storage systems. He can be reached at 800.356.5824; e-mail shajewski@trachte.com; visit www.trachte.com.

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