The Fairest Facility of All

September 1, 2004

4 Min Read
The Fairest Facility of All

The Fairest Facility of All

The new face of self-storage

By Louis Gilmore

For decades, the basic formula forsuccessful self-storage development was, If you build it, they will come.Facilities built in the '70s and '80s lacked architectural flavor and usedcookie-cutter-style buildings. They remained rented without challenge orobjection. Today, however, we operate in markets with an average of sevencompetitors in a 5-mile radius. There is almost always a new face on the block,and you better bet the new face looks better than the old ones. As competitionheats up, facility aesthetics become a greater factor in rentersdecision-making process. Modern facility designs include materials like brick,stucco and glass. Structures are accented with dormers and mansards, giving therenter a sense of class.

They Made Me Do It!

With a little help from your friends, i.e., the electedofficials in your town, you may find your office looking more like the Louvre,your landscaping like Augusta National, and your signage like a mile marker.Gone are the days when you could just throw up a building you won at atradeshow. Todays planners require submittal packages that include materialsamples, color selections and architectural elevations.

It is not uncommon to face written restrictions such as, Nodoors shall be visible or Buildings shall not have a flat roof. Often,you will see a contradicting requirement, like a full landscape buffer in frontof buildings accented with split-faced block piers. Youll spend money to makethe buildings look great, then youll have to hide them with shrubs and berms.The beautiful storage facility across town may not have been funded by theshade-tree committee, but the owners sure feel the costly effects of the boardsideas.

I Did It Myself

It is refreshing to see the new generation of self-storagedevelopers working to smash the boring box concept. Owner/developers arevoluntarily creating a brand image by putting money and effort into the curbappeal of their stores. Major operators or franchises in our industry, such asStorage USA, Shurgard and Uncle Bobs, have created an image for themselveswith icons such as lighthouses or unique color schemes. Single-store developershave copied these concepts, creating attractive appearances that give afranchise feel without the fees. While many will argue there is no brand loyaltyin the storage business, the investment in image is, without question,consumer-oriented.

The Office Is the Showcase

A storage prospects decision to rent a unit is ultimatelymade in the office. This is where he formulates his perception of your businessand decides whether to trust you with his valuables. It is where he may abandon you, if his expectationsbasedon information in your Yellow Pages ad or websiteare not met. Prospects willbe frightened away by a lack of security, old technology, neglected maintenance,foul odors, even poor lighting. At the same time, his perception of yourfacility can easily be improved right from the start.

Modifications and upgrades to the office can include replacing the shag rug with tile flooring, clearing out the clutter, adding windows, replace ceiling tiles, switching to a flat-screen monitor, or incorporating some plants. The office environment should assist the manager in overcoming anyobjections renters have without involving explanations or comparisons to otherfacilities. At all times during the design and decoration of your office,consider whether you, as a tenant, would be comfortable.

What Can I Do About It?

Antiquated facilities are not easily revitalized or reshaped.Often, a comprehensive refurbishment of the entire property is required. A facility that has been around for 20 years is a primecandidate for repaving, office renovation, repainting, new doors, landscaping,modernized signage, and upgrades to gates, keypads, cameras and monitors. Thehottest trend in renovations is adding climate-controlled units to the mix.Reconfiguration of existing buildings with the addition hallway systems,insulation and HVAC equipment can recharge old bins into first-class storage.

Whether you are planning a new project or budgeting money torestore an existing one, there is always a way to improve your facilitysimage. Take a good look at what tenants see when they approach your business. Isit a face anyone could love?

Louis Gilmore is sales manager for Pennsylvania- based MillerBuilding Systems Inc., which has designed, supplied and installed selfstoragebuildings since 1976. The company specializes in climate-controlled andmultistory buildings. It recently introduced a division that renovates existingbuildings and provides solutions to aging structures. Services includere-roofing, door repairs, climate-control conversions, and roof and wallcoatings. For more information, call 800.323.6464, ext. 104;

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