Pittsburgh's Brand-New, 107-Year-Old Self-Storage Business: A Conversion Tale

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By Nick Lackner

When we opened the door to our self-storage facility in November 2012, we initially thought of it as a “grand opening.” In actuality, it was more of a grand re-opening. That’s because the building was originally built for a different kind of storage: the Pittsburgh Terminal Warehouses. In fact, to my knowledge, City Center Self Storage is the only self-storage facility in a building that’s on the National Historic Register. This posed some unique challenges but also a significant number of benefits that are tough to find even with today’s new construction.

Good Bones

Our experience is probably unlike that of most other self-storage operators and developers. Many facilities are built from the ground up as new construction. Ours was a conversion project. Built in 1906, the original complex was designed expressly for storage. Perfectly located at the junction of rail, river and roads, Terminal Warehouses (now called River Walk Corporate Centre) instantly became the hub of Pittsburgh storage.

A composite of the original Pittsburgh Terminal Warehouses.

River Walk was the perfect location for us for the very same reasons. Its proximity to downtown make it accessible to the city and suburbs. Three courses of brick construction, high ceilings and thick floors provide natural climate control and built-in security. More than 48 working elevators translated into easy access to the upper floors. It was the perfect building to house our new business. Best of all, it had almost 250,000 square feet of available space!

Onsite Construction Team

Having picked our location, we needed to identify architects, contractors and electricians for the build-out phase. Fortunately, we found one of each right in our building. The architect and contractor are both long-term tenants and have intimate knowledge of the property, its construction and the underlying systems. They literally worked next door and were on site every day, ensuring rapid adjustment of plans and quick decisions.

Likewise, the electrician was on the board of directors for River Walk Corporate Centre and had done most of the electrical upgrades over the years. This talented, committed team was instrumental to our on-time, on-budget opening.

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