Designing Space for Self-Storage Ancillary Services: Wine Storage, Records Storage, Boat/RV Storage and Retail

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Space for Recreational Vehicles
By Caesar Wright, President, Mako Steel Inc., www.makosteel.com

I refer to boat/RV-storage buildings as self-storage on steroids. They use the same basic principals in structural design and construction, but the height and width of the units is greater. As for the overall site design, drive aisles and turn radii need to be increased exponentially, and traffic flow in and out of the site needs to be heavily considered.

The most important element in offering storage for boats, RVs and other vehicles is space. RVs take up a lot of it, and the requirements for drive aisles and turn radii are twice that of a typical self-storage property. The good folks at Winnebago have helped determine a rule of thumb that works pretty well in most scenarios: Whenever you’re storing a 20-, 30- or 40-foot vehicle, make your drive-aisle space a minimum of 50 feet to allow safe access to each of the units.

The most important element in offering storage for boats, RVs and other vehicles is space. (Photo courtesy of Mako Steel Inc.)

Your typical vehicle storage comprises a fully enclosed building with 14-foot-wide units. But there are many ways to offer boat and RV storage that don’t fit that precise mold. I’ve seen operators capitalize on RV storage by simply offering outdoor parking in areas they may have intended for facility expansion. Some look to increase the rent for this product by offering covered parking, building canopies at a significantly reduced cost per square foot compared to traditional self-storage or enclosed RV storage.

I’ve seen developers’ plans run the gamut from your basic canopy or roof-only structures to individually climate-controlled units with motor-operated doors and storage mezzanines. Many developers recognize that the target market for a boat/RV storage site is measurably different from that of self-storage. They’re focusing on the needs of the RV customer by offering wash bays, dump stations, valet service and club-house-type amenities that appeal to his sense of security and accessibility.

As with self-storage, RV/boat storage offers a great opportunity to incorporate solar panels. By nature, this type of development offers a ton of rooftop space, and if you’re in the right market, this can also be an ancillary money maker. Some municipalities will buy back excess energy production, and some will let you bank it for future use. If areas where either of these is an option, we’re seeing an average three- to five-year return on investment with this type of green building.

Whatever the product—enclosed, canopy or outdoor parking—the key to success is always supply and demand. The good news is in most markets, supply has not yet caught up with demand, so there are still some great opportunities for boat/RV storage.

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