Phoenix-based U-Haul International Inc., which operates more than 1,300 self-storage locations across North America, is seeking to convert a six-story structure in Toledo, Ohio, to self-storage. The company has a pending purchasing agreement to buy the former Willis Day warehouse at 801 Washington St., according to Bill Rains, district vice president for U-Haul in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. If the sale is closed, U-Haul will invest $3 million to $3.5 million to redevelop the 96,000-square-foot building into climate-controlled storage, retail space to sell moving and packing supplies, and a rental center for trucks and trailers, Rains said.
The project isn’t without opposition, however. The Toledo Warehouse District Association, which represents businesses, institutions and property owners in the district, claims it isn’t in line with the association’s plan to convert older buildings to apartments and lofts.
“I don’t know of anybody in the warehouse district who is greeting this positively. It’s not good for the neighborhood,” said Richard Rideout, an officer on the association’s board. “We don’t need another storage warehouse of that caliber. It is much better suited for residential use. I have heard there are other bidders for residential development, but they have been turned down by the owners.”
Located between Michigan and Ontario Streets, the building has been vacant since 2000 when its tenant, Xerox Corp., relocated. The site was purchased in 2013 for $1 million by an unnamed group of investors, according to the source. Healthcare organization ProMedica considered buying the warehouse to house a business incubator for upstart tech firms, but later withdrew its offer due to refurbishing costs.
The district has witnessed recent growth as dozens of older buildings have been converted to living space, restaurants and businesses. It’s this expansion that attracted U-Haul to the region, Rains said. “There is a big need for additional space for storage.”
U-Haul considered other buildings in the district and downtown area but settled on the Willis Day building due to parking availability and the loading space needed for a storage facility, the source reported. The project also aligns with the company’s mission to renovate historic or abandoned buildings, factories and warehouses.
Rains noted U-Haul’s recent conversion of the former Pinkerton Tobacco Co. factory at 3011 Council St. in Toledo. The first phase opened with 300 storage units, with further expansions adding another 300 to 400 units.
“We want to emphasize we have renovated buildings throughout the country. In every city, we have done this,” he said. “We love to maintain the historic aspects of those buildings. It is real important to us.”
Established in 1945, U-Haul owns more than 44 million square feet of storage space. The company’s corporate sustainability initiatives, which support infill development to help local communities lower their carbon footprint, has led to dozens of conversion projects in recent years.