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New Self-Storage Management Company Formed in Illinois

A new property-management company, Plummer Johnson Group, has been formed to specialize in the management of self-storage, office, retail and industrial properties in Central and South Illinois. The venture belongs to real estate development partners Terry Johnson, president of Johnson Properties Inc. in Fairview Heights, and Robert Plummer, president of RP Lumber and RLP Development in Edwardsville. The company officially opened on Monday in a building owned by RLP.
 
Plummer Johnson will oversee more than 850,000 square feet of office and retail space, according to Johnson, who expects it to manage 1 million square feet of property by year’s end.
 
In addition to property management, the company will help clients minimize costs, Plummer said. Johnson added that the business will be among the 20 largest property-management companies in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
 
Source: Belleville News-Democrat, Two of metro-east's biggest players form new property management firm

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Patriot Self Storage Hosts Grand Openings in North Port

On April 18 and 19, Patriot Self Storage of North Port, Fla., will hold grand openings for two facilities, hosting events that include raffles and entertainment as well as a petting zoo, bounce houses, clowns and games for kids. The new sites are finally opening after six years of planning and two years of construction, according to Jill Luke, property manager of one location.
 
Because Hal Perdew, owner of both locations, is a former military helicopter pilot, the businesses offer a special discount for veterans and active military members. In addition, a portion of every rental will be donated to the Fallen Heroes organization, Luke said.
 
Luke also emphasized that Patriot Self Storage prides itself on community outreach. She encourages organizations to turn to the facilities if they need a place to hold community events.
 
The Saturday event will take place at 2245 Bobcat Village Center Road; the Sunday event will be at 6029 Talon Bay Drive. Both will run from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
 
Source: Charlotte Sun-Herald, Patriot Self Storage features grand openings

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Storm Damages Self-Storage Roofs in Bossier City, La.

Roofs were pulled off of some units at Barksdale Self-Storage in Bossier City, La., during last Thursday’s storms, according to a story announced by KTBS Shreveport.  Facility employee and local resident Pamela Miller said she heard horrible wind along with crashing and banging.
 
Jim Stewart, who owns three rental houses in the area, also found one of his homes without a room on Friday morning.
 
Source: KTBS Shreveport, Bossier residents survey damage from Thursday storms

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NAREIT to Hold Annual Conference, June 3-5, in New York

The National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT), the representative voice for REITs and publicly traded real estate companies worldwide, will host REITWeek 2009, June 3-5, at the Waldorf=Astoria hotel in New York. The annual conference is the world’s largest investor forum focused on REITs and publicly traded real estate. The senior management teams of approximately 100 REITs and other companies will present at this year’s event.
 
The conference also will feature a number of panel discussions involving REIT CEOs from all sectors of the industry, as well as the leading REIT investment managers and securities analysts. This year’s discussions will focus on critical issues including:

  • The crisis in the credit markets, and the likelihood of the federal government’s programs to revitalize commercial real estate lending and the commercial mortgage-backed securities markets
  • The growing trend toward re-equitization and de-leveraging of the REIT industry
  • Value opportunities for investors in the U.S. and global real estate markets

Approximately 2,000 executives, institutional investment managers, investment advisors and consultants, and retirement-plan sponsors will attend REITWeek. Investors must be pre-qualified to attend, and advance registration is mandatory and complimentary for qualified investors. Registration requests are being accepted at www.reit.com/meetings/reitweek09.
 
NAREIT members are REITs and other businesses that own, operate and finance income-producing real estate, as well as those firms and individuals who advise, study and service those businesses.

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Pennsylvania Self-Storage Performs Steady

Self-storage owners in Washington, Pa., claim they’re not experiencing the same drop in business as those in other parts of the country. They also say self-storage delinquencies in the area are status quo.
 
Tom Evans of Route 19 Self Storage in North Strabane Township said he’s seen nothing unusual this year by way of slow payers. Drew Rosko, owner of 84 Self Storage in Somerset Township, said he's had a few customers leave who couldn't afford their rent, but his facility is still full. In fact, he’s seeing some new business. Ron Klinedinst, owner of Ron's Self Storage in South Franklin Township, said he tries to work with customers who are experiencing financial trouble. And George Ashcraft of Ashcraft Self Storage in Monongahela, Pa., claimed delinquencies are “about the same.”
 
All facility owners interviewed by the Observer-Reporter agreed their area has not been affected as severely as others.
 
Source: Observer-Reporter (Washington, Pa.), Economy not hurting local self-storage

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U-Haul to Build $5M Self-Storage Building in Coeur d'Alene

U-Haul International Inc. plans to construct a self-storage building worth more than $5 million in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, at the site of its U-Haul Moving Center on W. Appleway. Construction will take place during the company’s new fiscal year, which started this month. The building will contain 62,000 square feet, according to Carlos Vizcarra, president of Amerco Real Estate Co., a subsidiary of U-Haul parent company Amerco.
 
Source: Spokane Journal of Business, Coeur d'Alene U-Haul plans $5 million storage building

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After the Incident: 10 Rules for Dealing With the Media

I was recently contacted by a self-storage owner who had a break-in at his facility. More than 50 units were compromised, and he was concerned about media coverage and how it would affect his business.

Although a break-in is not a disaster like a fire or flood, it can be an insurance and public-relations nightmare. You should have procedures in place—and your staff trained—long before the reporters arrive on your doorstep. Here are 10 rules you should always follow.

No. 1: Brief everyone.

Include this simple statement in the employee handbook or operations manual: No employee is ever permitted to speak to the media. This, by the way, is true of even the “good” stories.

The company should have one official spokesperson—usually the owner, regional manager, attorney, etc. Beyond that no one should speak to the media. If a conflicting answer is given by two different representatives, it could reflect poorly on your facility.

No. 2: Prepare a written statement.

If there is a break-in or other crisis at the facility, prepare a written statement and distribute it in response to any requests for an interview or information. If you give a statement to the media in writing your words cannot be twisted or taken out of context. It should be well-written, free of grammatical and spelling errors. If possible, craft a statement before something happens, leaving blanks that can be filled in the event of a crisis. This should include general facility information, how long you have been in business, etc. If you know someone with public relations experience, ask for assistance.

No. 3: Stick to the facts.

You may think you know other “facts” about the event, you suspect someone was involved, you heard something or there is something you saw on the videotape; however, if you do not know these facts with 100 percent certainty, do not comment on them. Here’s an example of a generic statement:

We are aware there was a break-in at the facility and property appears to have been taken. The facility and the company are cooperating with the authorities. We are trying to reach our valuable tenants to notify them that their unit may have been involved. We will be making arrangements with the tenants to let them in on a one-by-one basis to allow them to assess any loss and assist them with reporting the loss to the occupant’s insurance carrier. Our rental agreements require occupants carry insurance on their stored property, so we expect that insurance companies will allow our occupants to make a full recovery of any loss they suffered.

For the most part, the statement is all you will actually know the first time you speak with the media. Notice it does not include the number of units broken into, how the theft occurred, whether there was any breach of security systems, what was stolen, if there is videotape of the incident, etc. These are not the facts you should give to the press.

No. 4: Do not think you can “help” the media.

There is no such thing as helping a story and any attempt to help violates rules one through three. Stick to the facts, even if you think you can help “guide” the story or you worry it will be mischaracterized if you do not give out more information. Certain elements may be mischaracterized anyway; do not risk adding any fuel to the fire.

No. 5: Never let the media on the property.

While you cannot stop media from videotaping, photographing or broadcasting from across the street or down the block, you can stop them from broadcasting and photographing on your property. Never let them broadcast from your property, particularly in front of your facility sign. If the media does come onto the property, ask them nicely (you may be on tape) to leave once, tell them they are trespassing; if they do not leave, ask the police for assistance.

No. 6: Check your sign.

If you have a message board that changes automatically or with letters you slide on and you are currently advertising “safe, secure, clean units available,” change the message without drawing too much attention to yourself. A sign touting “safe or secure” in the midst of a break-in could become fodder for questions in any news story.

No. 7: Do not feel threatened by any statements the media makes.

If you do not talk to the media, they will claim they tried to reach you and you would not respond or had no comment. This is often inaccurate. You do have a comment, it is in writing, and you provided it to any media member who asked for it.

No. 8: Express regret without admitting guilt or liability.

You can always say, “We regret this incident happened.” Don’t admit guilt or that anything that happened was the result of any omission or failure on your part. For example, you should never say, “We have been having trouble with the gate for the last few weeks and it does not surprise me that someone finally took advantage of this.”

No. 9: Be prepared to circulate a letter to your occupants.

There are really three components to this. First, your tenants should hear about the break-in from you, not the media. This ensures they receive the correct information. Second, do not admit to facts you do not know for certain. This goes back to rules two and three; these are the same types of facts that were in the press release.

Lastly, let occupants know you have a plan. If you’ve closed access to the facility because units are exposed, let your tenants know how they can get into their units to inspect and re-lock them. Also, let them know you’ll provide assistance in filing insurance claims. You can also make a helpful suggestion, such as bringing a camera to document the inspection. All of this puts you in the driver’s seat, as it were, with your occupants so you are perceived as organized, aware of the situation and doing your best to help them.

This notice should also tell occupants that if they haven’t inspected their units by a certain date you will re-lock the unit—and charge the cost of the new lock to their account—so that you can re-open the facility to normal business.

The letter to your tenants should be positive in nature, but emphasize that what happened is not your fault; you are not responsible for the loss; that occupants are supposed to have insurance, but that you will help with the claim as much as you can. You can also offer a small incentive, such as a discount, for the inconvenience without admitting guilt. This is a goodwill gesture, not an admission of wrongdoing.

No. 10: News cycles are short.

The average shelf life of a story is two weeks or less. While you may feel overwhelmed, stressed or unfairly targeted by the media, the good news/bad news is something worse will come along and take your story out of the news.

Be prepared by making sure your staff knows their role when something like this happens, particularly that they cannot “help” by speaking to the media, and have your written statement and plan ready so you can beat the media to the punch.

This article is for the purpose of providing general legal insight into the self-storage field and should not be substituted for the advice of your own attorney.

Jeffrey J. Greenberger is a partner with the law firm of Katz Greenberger & Norton LLP in Cincinnati, and is licensed to practice in Kentucky and Ohio. Mr. Greenberger’s practice focuses primarily on representing the owners and operators of commercial real estate, including self-storage owners and operators. To reach him, call 513.721.5151; visit www.selfstoragelegal.com.

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Self-Storage on North Foothills Expands

Spokane, Wash., developer Harlan Douglass is adding four buildings and about 440 units to his self-storage facility on North Foothills Drive, according to Jon Johnson, its operations manager. Self-Storage on North Foothills currently has 555 units ranging in size from 25 to 480 square feet. The new buildings will include units of up to 750 square feet.
 
Source: Spokane Journal of Business, North Side self-storage gets 440 more units

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Cromwell AAA Self Storage Celebrates Five-Year Anniversary

Cromwell AAA Self Storage of Connecticut is celebrating is five-year anniversary and offering a special program to all customers who start a new rental in the months of April and May. New customers will receive their second month of rental for free.
 
The 50,000-square-foot facility on 5 acres features five single-story buildings and an office building.
 
Cromwell AAA Self Storage has facilities in Berlin, Cromwell, East Hampton, Meriden, Middletown, Newington, Portland, Rocky Hill, Southington and Wethersfield, Conn.

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StorAmerica Asks Plan Commission for More Space

StorAmerica LLC of Carmel, Ind., wants to add square footage to its planned self-storage project near Fort Wayne, Ind. The company appealed to the Allen County Plan Commission this week to add a third floor to one of the site’s four buildings, increasing the number of climate-controlled units.
 
A neighbor is concerned that the project will contribute to an existing drainage problem in the area, caused by the recent construction of an apartment complex. Stor-America’s attorney says the problem should be fixed soon.

Source: Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, More space sought for self-storage off Maysville

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