When Strategic Storage Trust Inc. acquired a self-storage facility in 2009 in an older Phoenix neighborhood, the company knew a facelift was long overdue. Sure Save Self Storage opened in 1974, and like many first-generation facilities, it lacked curb appeal and reliable security and failed to meet many of todays city codes. The property could have easily been mistaken as a multi-story warehouse for a small manufacturer or transfer company.
Rather than just apply makeup and lipstick, we made the decision to move forward with bringing the property up to date with many of the new amenities that have become valued by storage customers, both from a physical and technical perspective, says Robert Cerrone, senior vice president of operations for Strategic Storage Trust, a non-traded real estate investment trust based in Ladera Ranch, Calif.
First up was the exterior aesthetic. The goal was to brighten the property and make it more customer-friendly, particularly for the facilitys female clientele, which represents 60 percent of all rentals. The facilitys security was also updated.
The total cost of renovation was $305,000. The company also set aside $230,000 to add covered parking for boats and RVs.
- Total square footage: 44,200
- Rentable square footage: 40,198
- Total number of units: 529
- Climate-controlled units: 502
- Owner: Strategic Storage Trust Inc.
- Management company: Strategic Storage Property Management
- Resident manager: Kari Weaver
- General contractor: WHM Construction Management
- Management-software supplier: Centershift Inc.
A Total Makeover
Built in the 70s, the facility was not only lacking curb appeal, it lacked many common attributes of modern self-storage sites, such as accessible loading areas, a retail store and access control. The rental office was remodeled and expanded to include a full-glass storefront and granite counter top at the leasing desk. The office was painted, and retail products were added.
The exterior needed major restoration. In addition to new paint, the loading area was upgraded to include an access-controlled entry with sliding-glass doors, and an improved elevator lobby with diamond-plate aluminum wainscoting was installed. The entire roof was replaced.
The dumpster was relocated from the front of the property to a newly constructed pad behind the gate, away from direct line-of-sight to the street. The result eliminated dumping in and around the dumpster because its now in a secured part of the property behind perimeter fencing.
Certain code compliances also needed to be met. The new counter in the retail office had to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, as did the public restroom.
Lack of solid security was one of the facilitys biggest problems. A fully automated sliding gate with tie-in to the access-control system was added, as was a video-surveillance system with 16 cameras, a digital video recorder, and a large-screen monitor with Internet-viewing capability. A privacy fence made of recycled plastic material that resembles wood but is more durable and requires less maintenance was installed in front of the manager residence.
Finally, a new pylon sign, building signs and retail-style awning were erected over the rental officeall with SmartStop branding.
In addition to bringing the facility up to code and adding customer appeal, Strategic Storage Trust also used the renovation opportunity to introduce several green initiatives.
The exterior lighting was upgraded to state-of-the-art LED lighting engines, bringing a bright daylight illumination. Not only does the new lighting make the facility stand out at night, it adds security. These fixtures use 70 percent less energy than standard mercury vapor bulbs (the ones that glow orange), brightness is increased by 100 percent, and replacement is reduced significantly because the unit is all solid state. The light comes from a LED diode and is guaranteed for 10 years versus the bulbs, ballasts and connectors in standard fixtures, which typically dont last more than two years.
In addition, the facility features T-5 fluorescent bulbs, an Energy-Star surveillance system, and a new white-reflective roofing, which reduces heat from the sun penetrating the building and the facilitys air-condition consumptiona bonus during the hot Phoenix summers.
Strategic Storage Trust also used recycled or renewable materials in the renovation wherever possible. This included the privacy fence around the manager apartment, and the gate and fence for the access-security system, which was made of recycled aluminum.
The apartment and facility restroom also feature a tankless water-heater system, which reduces energy usage to heat water by 40 percent. The fixtures in the restroom include a low-volume flush toilet and motion-sensor faucet.
Attracting New Tenants
Community marketing was deemed the best avenue to relay the facilitys improvements. The facility donates any abandoned clothing and household goods to the nearby St. Josephs Hospital. This has given us exposure to the community and some new rentals, Cerrone says. The facility is also participating in community events such as the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and local health fairs. In addition, fliers are being distributed with local businesses, and at apartment communities and residential neighborhoods.
The location is the first wave of revitalization in this neighborhood and has been welcomed by the locals surrounding this property, Cerrone says. It is a residential managed property, as our lead associate lives on site and is from the neighborhood.
Strategic Storage Trust also hopes adding covered RV- and boat-storage parking will attract new customers. The expansion of the undeveloped land to the rear of the property is being reviewed by the citys zoning department.
There are also plans for additional branding and imaging on the three-story building to include a blue band at the top and dummy storage doors on the face of the building. Its still a relatively non-descript building, and this would better identify it as a self-storage property, Cerrone says.
The renovations are already paying off. Facility occupancy is the highest its been in 17 months, and rental units are up 22 units for the first quarter of 2011 compared to the last two years. In addition to the improved moral for the onsite staff, weve received favorable reception from the local community and the city, Cerrone says. Curb appeal and drive-by is very clean, updated and inviting. The property is now modern looking and has the appearance of improved security and care for the area, property and our tenants goods.