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ISS BLOG: Self-Storage Development Continues to Flourish, But You Still Need to Be on Your Toes

Self-storage development is already strong in 2024, but there are still a number of challenges industry professionals will likely face to take their project from conception to opening. If you plan to build this year, consider these pointers to navigate today’s convoluted construction environment.

Amy Campbell

February 2, 2024

4 Min Read

In January, Inside Self-Storage (ISS) reported on a few dozen self-storage developments. Some were facilities that recently opened, while others were breaking ground or maneuvering through the often-complex approval process in cities and towns, big and small. They include ground-up projects, both single- and multi-story, and conversions of existing structures, which remains a popular development type. One thing is definite: Self-storage development is thriving.

This is in despite of the archaic views many people still have the service. While some municipality officials are finally recognizing the benefits self-storage can bring to their communities—and the fewer demands they put on city services—there are still so many that see the business as risky, troublesome or just “not the right fit.” As such, moratoriums or restrictions on self-storage development continue to be discussed.

Case in point: The Benton, Arkansas, City Council recently passed an ordinance classifying self-storage as a conditional use in all development zones. The city had placed a moratorium on self-storage development nearly a year go so it could determine the best course of action.

“We look at the application, and we look at the land [where] these units are proposed to be built, and we take them on a case-by-case basis to ensure as city leaders that we are putting the best establishment in that particular location for the betterment of our city from here on out,” said Shane Knight, the council member who sponsored the ordinance. “We just want to make sure that we are utilizing the land that we have, especially on the commercial side, to the betterment of our entire city for the foreseeable future.”

It’s understandable that these folks are elected to oversee growth in their communities and determine what’s in its best interest. Yet, often in these zoning cases, developers and their attorneys are still fighting the perception of self-storage. People will store hazardous materials. It’ll cause more traffic and crime. It’s too big or ugly. We don’t need more storage. We need houses, office buildings, restaurants and retail! I don’t know about your city, but mine has plenty of those!

So … while self-storage development is doing well, challenges remain. If you’re planning to build this year (or next), you need fortitude and patience. You also need a knowledgeable team that can present your project and overcome all those common objections with finesse. Here are some more pointers to help you navigate today’s development environment.

Stay informed. This covers the gamut—from what’s happening in the industry at large to your local community. This is especially important during site selection. Pay attention to the fine print in the zoning laws. That doesn’t mean you should walk away if the site isn’t zoned for self-storage. Many developers have been successful when requesting a zone change. But know you might have an uphill battle ahead of you. Consider this advice to turn haters into supporters.

Build responsibly. Do YOUR homework! There’s a reason you need to jump through hoops before shovels hit the ground. Perhaps you own a nice piece of land and think it’d be ideal for self-storage. But do the market numbers support this? There are some regions that are becoming oversaturated with self-storage. Your new facility will falter if you can’t fill units.

Make it beautiful. Yes, a self-storage facility can be beautiful, and I have the proof. For several years now, ISS has published a design gallery each spring. I typically receive more than 100 entries, and must narrow it down to 50 or so. It’s a challenge as these projects are all jewels and deserve recognition. If you have a stunner, email pictures and details to me for possible inclusion in this year’s gallery.

Creating an aesthetically pleasing site isn’t all that complicated but it can increase the project’s price tag. It’s imperative to work with a talented architect who’s forward thinking and well-versed in the self-storage industry. Also, focus on the things that’ll people will notice, like the shiny floor in the front office, the comfy furniture, and the abundance of trees, shrubs and flowers. Opt for high-end cabinetry, quality unit doors and building materials, and professional signage. Of course, you need sturdy and well-built buildings, but your customer are going to focus on the aesthetics, so earmark some funds to beautify your property.

While self-storage construction seems simple, it truly isn’t. There’s so much to learn about the topic! Whether you’re gearing up to build your first or simply your next project, you’ll find insight on all aspects of development and construction at the ISS World Expo. We have a dedicated Building Track comprising seven sessions covering facility design, contracts, renovations, sustainability, change orders, IBC codes and zoning. In addition, consider attending the popular development workshop. The two, four-hour sessions cover the planning and building phases. Our presenters are experts in their respective fields and will offer you a wealth of information. Registration is now open. We hope to see you there!

About the Author(s)

Amy Campbell

Editor, Inside Self Storage

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