Highland Development Ventures Proposes Self-Storage Conversion of Hobby Lobby Warehouse Space in Franklin, WI

Highland Development Ventures LLC, a New York-based real estate developer and investment company specializing in self-storage and student-housing conversions, intends to convert the warehousing space in the back of a Franklin, Wis., Hobby Lobby store into 80,000 square feet of self-storage. The warehouse portion of the building would feature drive-in, climate-controlled space, while up to three new storage buildings and outdoor boat and RV storage could be developed around it, according to the source.

Highland Development Ventures LLC, a New York-based real estate developer and investment company specializing in self-storage and student-housing conversions, intends to convert the warehousing space in the back of a Franklin, Wis., Hobby Lobby store into 80,000 square feet of self-storage. The warehouse portion of the building would feature drive-in, climate-controlled space, while up to three new storage buildings and outdoor boat and RV storage could be developed around it, according to the source.

The building once housed an Ashley Furniture store, which used the front as a showroom and the rear of the structure for warehousing. Hobby Lobby uses only the front of the property. If the project is approved, Highland Development would buy the warehouse portion and surrounding paved area, the source reported.

Traditional retail uses of the building are problematic because it’s shielded from view in its South 27th Street location, Adam Hird, managing partner for Highland Development, told the source. Neighboring residents have also complained about truck noise from the loading docks of a nearby Walmart, which makes commercial warehousing also an issue. “You have a site with very little visibility from the road,” Hird said. “If they also want something that is not disruptive to the neighbors, [self-storage] may be the best bet.”

To help with the visibility limitations, one of the new storage structures would be built as tall as the Hobby Lobby building with exterior signage, according to Hird.

The planning commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposal on May 19. If approved, Highland Development could begin construction this summer or in the fall, Hird said.

The developer is converting two other Milwaukee-area buildings into self-storage that will open this summer. The company is negotiating to acquire two additional sites in the area that would operate under the Extra Space Storage brand, according to the source.

“For us, having mass is important,” Hird said. “We’re looking to grow to at least eight facilities, preferably 12, in the next year or two.”

Based in White Plains, N.Y., Highland Development Ventures is a real estate development and investment firm with interests throughout Canada and the United States. Its primary focus is the adaptive reuse of older buildings and small urban sites, specializing in self-storage and student-housing projects, according to the company website.

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