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Public Storage Canadian Properties Opens LaSalle Facility

Canadian Mini-Warehouse Properties Co., the general partner of Public Storage Canadian Properties, has opened a new self-storage facility in LaSalle, Quebec. The site consists of a three-story, climate-controlled building with approximately 85,000 rentable square feet and 880 units. The cost to develop the facility, including land, was approximately $9.5 million. This is the sixth facility acquired or developed by the partnership in the greater Montreal area in the last four years.

The facility will be managed by Canadian Mini-Warehouse Properties, which manages the partnership's other properties, pursuant to an agreement for a management fee of 6 percent of the property’s gross operating revenue.

Public Storage Canadian Properties owns 27 self-storage facilities: 15 in Ontario, five in British Columbia, six in Quebec and one in Alberta. It also owns land parcels in Oakville, Orleans and Richmond Hill, Ontario, for self-storage development.

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Extra Space Storage Winds Down Development

Extra Space Storage Inc. has begun an immediate wind-down of its development program. As a result of the decision, the company expects to incur one-time charges in respect to development projects that not currently under construction of between $19 million and $23 million in the second quarter of 2009, and severance costs of between $1 million and $2 million. It also expects to spend between $50 million and $55 million on the completion of 18 remaining development properties. Construction of these sites is estimated to be complete by the third quarter of 2010.
 
"Due to the scarcity of reasonably-priced financing for our development projects in the current market and our need to preserve capital, it is prudent and in the best interest of our shareholders that we discontinue our development program at this time,” said Spencer F. Kirk, chairman and CEO.

Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Extra Space Storage is a real estate investment trust that owns or operates 698 self-storage properties in 33 states and Washington, D.C. The company's properties comprise more than 51 million square feet of rentable space.

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The Eco-Friendly Self-Storage Office: Tips!

Here are some quick and easy steps you can take to ensure your self-storage office is doing its part for Mother Earth:

  • Exchange regular light bulbs for compact fluorescent light bulbs. Add motion lighting, timers and dimmers wherever possible.
  • Recycle cans and plastic bottles.
  • When looking for new office equipment, check consignment stores. Not only can you find bargains, the furniture is typically barely worn.
  • Upgrade to energy-efficient windows.
  • When it comes time to upgrade computers, recycle. Also, use the computer’s power-save mode and turn off power strips at the end of the day to conserve electricity.
  • Reduce paper use by creating electronic training manuals. Use both sides of the paper for self-storage contracts. Recycle paper or shred it and sell it to customers as packing material.
  • Purchase a thermostat timer to keep the office at a set temperature.
  • Ask customers to recycle gently used boxes and moving materials at your site.
  • Keep a list of charities on hand so tenants can donate items rather than throw them away. 

To make your own Earth-friendly cleaning products, try these recipes:

Windows: Spray with undiluted white vinegar or mix of one cup of vinegar with one cup of water, then wipe clean with a newspaper or paper towel. Avoid streaks by cleaning windows on cloudy days.

Countertops: Try a vinegar and water mixture or add four tablespoons of baking soda to one quart of water. Spray, then wipe clean. 

Carpet stains: Soak area with club soda, then dab with a clean, white towel. Use baking soda to deodorize carpet.

Pests: To kill aphids on outdoor roses, mix 1.5 teaspoons of baking soda per pint of water and apply every seven days. To deter ants, wipe counters with vinegar, and then sprinkle dried peppers into the places where they enter. Keep roaches out by spreading bay leaves on shelves and in crevices where they enter from the outside.

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A Green Future for Self-Storage: Getting on the Eco-Bandwagon

Andree Jansheski was looking for a life-defining moment when she decided to turn Bellam Self Storage & Boxes in Marin Country, Calif., into a certified green business in 2006. She knew that overhauling the facility—built in 1965 and converted to storage in 1982—and its business practices would be a challenge. And costly. But it wasn’t about money.

“You do this because it’s in your heart. Because you respect your customers and you respect your environment,” Jansheski says. “If you go into wanting to be green and all you see are dollar signs, it’s never going to give you goose bumps.”

While environmental sustainability has been a hot topic for the past decade, the reality of global warming has catapulted the importance of the issue. President Barack Obama has pledged to spend $150 billion in the next decade to create 5 million green jobs.

Communities across America are spearheading recycling programs, banning plastic bags and planting trees. Businesses big and small are slashing energy consumption and promoting environmentalism. 
Green isn’t a passing fad or even a movement; it’s a new way of life. Like Jansheski, many self-storage professionals recognize this and are embracing Earth-friendly products and practices. 
 
Harnessing the Sun’s Power

Although there are a number of ways for self-storage builders and owners to “go green,” solar panels are still the most mainstream option for those looking to add a conservational element to their facilities. Solar technology has evolved, making it more affordable and easier to install. Government rebates and tax credits also add to the lure.

“It’s a great opportunity for self-storage owners because they have lots of roof space and get a lot of sun,” says Matt Arner, president of SolarFlair Energy in Hopkinton, Mass. In March, the company installed 99 solar panels on the roof of 126 Self Storage in Ashland, Mass. Although the panels only cover about 5 percent of the facility’s roof space, they produce 60 percent of the power needed to run the facility’s office and exterior lights.

Andree and John Jansheski installed solar panels to cover the rooftop of Bellam Self Storage & Boxes. The panels provide 100 percent of the facility's electricity use.

The project cost $149,817, but owner Michael Kane received a $67,568 rebate from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a $44,945 federal tax credit, a $7,221 state tax credit and other incentives, reducing the overall cost. Kane says he’ll pay the balance in six years and then, theoretically, should make money on the system, which is expected to generate about 18,900 kilowatt hours per year. In addition to saving about $3,800 on utility bills annually, he can possibly sell electricity back to his utility company.

Charlie Fritts, chief operating officer of Storage Investment Management Inc. (SIMI), is already seeing the benefits of the solar panels added to Planet Self Storage in Newington, Conn., one of 31 properties his company owns or manages. Installed 15 months ago, the panels produce 30 percent of the facility’s electricity.

“The financial benefit has improved because electric rates have increased,” Fritts says. SIMI is now converting the majority of its exterior lighting wall packs to LED technology. “These fixtures use more than 80 percent less energy for an equal level of light,” Fritts says.

The solar panels that cover just 2 percent of Acorn Mini Storage in Brentwood, Calif., generate more than enough power for the 1,000-unit facility, which opened in 2005. “This started paying for itself as soon as it was in,” says facility owner Jim Moita, who added solar in 2006 to take advantage of tax credits.

In the first year of operation, Moita had a credit of $1,400 from his electric company. Currently, California’s power companies do not pay customers whose solar operations generate an excess in solar power. Moita is hoping that may change in the near future, allowing him to sell power back to the electric company or to nearby homes and a shopping center.

Jansheski also invested heavily in solar panels to cover the rooftop of Bellam Self Storage & Boxes. The panels provide 100 percent of the electricity use for the 60,000-square-foot facility. 

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Adding a solar element to a self-storage property isn’t the only avenue to green. There are a number of options for owners and managers interested in eco-friendly products and services. Some are easy and low-cost while others are more challenging.

Jansheski admits that converting Bellam to an all-green facility was daunting. To become a Bay Area Certified Green Business, the site had to meet several requirements, and Jansheski tackled one area at a time. Easy changes included swapping out bleached white paper towels for natural brown in the bathrooms, and requesting that her cleaning company use only green products. Costlier renovations included installing low-flow toilets, motion-sensor faucets and an electric hot-water heater under the bathroom sink.

Jansheski also turned her attention to Bellam’s retail store. Employees now shred and sell paper to customers for packing. The store also carries green packing peanuts. And there isn’t a dumpster on the property, so tenants can’t throw away items. Instead, Jansheski gives every tenant a list of charities with contact information so they can repurpose their goods.

Repurposing was a key to Jeffrey Sitt’s first foray into the self-storage industry. Instead of building from the ground up, he found a turn-of-the-century, cold-storage building in New York, recycling as much material as possible during the conversion, and then installing the most energy-efficient products possible. The facility opened under the name Hall Street Storage, but was soon changed to iStoreGreen to reflect Sitt’s mission. iStoreGreen recently joined the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership to use renewable energy for 100 percent of the facility’s electricity.

iStoreGreen gives each new tenant a reusable tote bag, CFL light bulb, and information about conserving and recycling.

Sitt’s objective has reached far beyond the facility as well. He began an initiative to eliminate plastic bags in Brooklyn, sponsors a local park and even plants trees for every customer who stores with iStoreGreen. “We're not just a place trying to do green things. It is who we are,” says Sitt, who has been approached by developers interested in the green self-storage model. “The country as a whole has woken up to the fact that saving our planet is everybody's responsibility, and this is the new economy.”

Professional Self Storage Management, a Tucson, Ariz.-based consulting and management company, has also established a number of changes for its facilities, including using recycled ink cartridges and sending invoices by e-mail. Most of the company’s sites are in warm-weather climates, so desert landscaping is installed to minimize water use. Stores with indoor lighting are being converted to motion-sensor lights, and gas-powered golf carts are being swapped out for electric ones.

“I’m proud of my managers and staff for giving us numerous ideas of how to make our facilities more environmentally friendly, and hope that others may take our lead and join with us in this worthy cause,” says Mel Holsinger, company president. 

Capturing Water

Some facilities are experimenting with rainwater catchment systems, which capture rainwater and divert it for other uses such as landscape irrigation. “Metal roof panels are extremely efficient at channeling water to where you want it to go,” says Wes Brooker, marketing development manager for American Buildings Co. in Eufaula, Ala. “Self-storage buildings can be designed with commercial-size gutters and downspouts to move water into either holding ponds or even underground tanks.”

Bill Markson found another way to capture water and turn it into power. Without access to a natural gas source, he was forced to get creative when building Lakeville (Mass.) Self Storage. Although he wanted to add climate control to a portion of the facility’s 206 units, costly propane was his only choice. So Markson began looking for an alternative. In his research, he stumbled upon geothermal heating and cooling. “The cost of the heat pumps is comparable to that of an electric-operated air conditioner,” he says. “The additional expense is the piping.”

Once Markson’s development team determined the property’s well would yield plenty of water to sustain the system, Markson decided to give it a go. The geothermal system covers four storage buildings plus the office. Each building has a four-ton heat pump that will heat or cool. Water is piped from the well to the building, and then piped to a discharge well. Best of all, the system has the capacity to expand.

Markson was able to claim tax credits, which reduced the overall cost of the system. The facility’s only utility bill is electricity, which rarely exceeds $100 a month. Markson markets the geothermal system on the facility’s website and explains how it works to prospective tenants. “Some people are very interested in it. They’re pleased they’re participating in something that’s green."

Green Rewards

It’s hard to put a price tag on conservation. While there are typically higher upfront costs, the long-term savings can be easily measured. “On a business level, green is indeed good,” Sitt declares. “What we've found is that green produces more green—the more business you do because you're green, the more green things you can afford to do, and it continues like that.  So business and green go together today.”

While it may be hard to make the commitment, Sitt advises self-storage professionals to take baby steps. He suggests setting up a recycling area or switching to eco-friendly cleaners. Look for energy-saving products, including for compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) and high-efficient heating and cooling units. “We're still building on it all at iStoreGreen,” he says. “The green initiatives never really stop, there's always something else to do.”

You should also market your green products and services to current tenants and prospects. “Every time I run an ad, it’s part of it,” says Jansheski, who also gives every customer a pamphlet outlining Bellam’s green products and services. The facility’s website includes the Bay Area Certified Green Business logo. Markson and Moita also market their green initiatives on their websites. Sitt takes it a step further, giving each customer a reusable tote bag, a CFL light bulb, and information about conserving and recycling.

Because there’s such a high demand for green products and services, there’s a ready-made market for storage operators. “We see everything from customers moving their stuff to us from far distances because we are the only green storage facility in the area, to customers who don't think about the green aspect until they come in and see all that we've done, and then feel even better about storing here,” Sitt says. “It gives them a sense of satisfaction, knowing they are helping the planet, and everyone wants to help the planet.”

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ISS Blog

Old Tires ... And Other Undesirables

Sad but true: There is a large percentage of the population looking for shortcuts in life. They look for loopholes in just about everything, taking advantage where they can. And self-storage can be a target for these types. How many headlines have you seen where some poor manager stumbles across something that should never be found in a self-storage unit?

A Self-Storage Talk member recently shared a tale of woe. JRMcCoy writes, “I am about to have to cut a check for $4,000 to have hundreds of old tires removed from my largest conventional unit. A shady looking character from about two counties away (with no good story as to why he was renting in my county) rented a unit, and then under cover of night loaded us up with used tires ... top to bottom, front to back.”

While McCoy did the right thing, obtaining the tenant’s driver’s license info and reporting him to the state authorities, the facility is, so far, stuck with a hefty bill.

To minimize the chance of someone using your facility as a dumping ground, you first need a solid rental agreement. In addition, always get a copy of the tenant’s driver’s license, and you may want to consider obtaining credit or debit card info. Here’s an excellent article by industry legal expert Jeffrey Greenberger about why you should obtain credit or debit card information.

Lastly, use your judgment. If something doesn’t feel right, ask for more information, another form of identification, two phone numbers, etc. Yes, the customer may turn around and walk out the door. But saying no to someone looking to saddle you with something undesirable will actually save you money in the long run.

Have a similar story to share? Post a comment below or join the conversation at SelfStorageTalk.com.

Strategic Storage Trust Expands Portfolio in Metro Atlanta

Strategic Storage Trust, a non-traded self-storage real estate investment trust, has expanded it portfolio with the purchase of two self-storage facilities in Alpharetta and Marietta, Ga. The properties were purchased for a total of $9.6 million from Storage Partners of Alpharetta LLC and Storage Partners of Powers Ferry Road LLC, a joint venture with Fidelity Real Estate Group and United Storage of Philadelphia.
 
Constructed in 2006, United Storage of Marietta is a 51,926-square-foot facility with 506 climate-controlled units. United Storage of Alpharetta is a 76,233-square-foot facility with 662 units. It was built in 2002.

 
United Storage of Marietta (left) and United Storage of Alpharetta (right)
 
Wayne Johnson, senior vice president of acquisitions with Strategic Storage Trust, was represented by Charles “Chico” LeClaire, senior vice president of investments for the Marcus & Millichap Denver office, and Mike Mele, vice president of investments for the firm’s Tampa office. The brokers also listed the properties.
 
Strategic Storage Trust, launched in 2008, has increased its portfolio to include eight self-storage facilities in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Virginia. The company’s sponsor is Strategic Capital Holdings LLC (formerly U.S. Commercial LLC), which manages a growing portfolio of more than 5.3 million square feet of commercial properties, including 3.7 million square feet of self storage.
 
Marcus & Millichap is one of the nation’s largest real estate investment brokerage firms. The company has more than 60 offices and 1,300 investment professionals nationwide.

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Substitute Self-Storage Lien Bill Passes in Utah

A substitute bill that improves the self-storage lien law in the state of Utah has passed the House and Senate and was signed by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. last week. The substitute was created to fix erroneous language in the original bill, SB 208, which would have required self-storage owners to post six neighborhood signs in conspicuous locations around a facility’s neighborhood prior to each lien sale.

Carlos Kaslow, general counsel to the national Self Storage Association, caught the error and consulted on the new measure, sponsored by the SSA and the Utah Self Storage Association.

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Safebox Self Storage Sponsors U.K. Lightning Rod Racing Hero

The Safebox Group of Companies, including Safebox Self Storage and Safebox Document Storage, in February signed a sponsorship deal with local racing hero Steve Santry, who just became the East Anglian Lightning Rod Champion. As part of the deal, the company’s black and yellow logo is emblazoned across Santry’s No. 368 car.   
 
The sponsorship is an extension of the long-standing relationship Santry has with Safebox. His company, Cheldan Construction, has been involved in numerous projects at the Safebox Cambridgeshire headquarters and document-storage facility. Last year, Cheldan was responsible for much of the construction and renovation work required for completion of the company’s Cambridge self-storage facility. In addition, the company serves as Safebox’s facilities and maintenance-management partner.
 
Santry’s racing career spans more than 20 years and includes numerous accolades including World Champion in 2001. His ambition in Lightning Rod racing is to win the World Final, to be held in Ireland in August.
 
Source: U.K. Business Weekly, The Safebox Self Storage Sponsored Driver wins the East Anglian Championship

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Space Mart Self Storage Burns in South Richmond, VA

A fire at Space Mart Self Storage in South Richmond, Va., just before dawn this morning damaged 23 units and caused the closure of a portion of Jahnke Road. Six units were damaged by fire and another 17 by water or smoke. One firefighter was treated for minor burns. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.
 
The fire appeared to have started in a unit at the back of a long complex of storage units, according to Lt. Tim Brandon. Firefighters were unsure which units were burning and had to open several.
 
Source: Richmond Times Dispatch, 23 units damaged in Richmond storage facility fire

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California Assembly Endorses Improvements to Self-Storage Lien Statute

A bill that will greatly improve the lien rights of self-storage operators in California passed the General Assembly in a unanimous vote last Thursday. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it will be reviewed by policy committees. Hearings may be held in June or July.
 
The California Self Storage Association and the national Self Storage Association introduced the bill in April to amend the state’s self-storage lien statute. The bill proposes to eliminate the existing Declaration of Opposition Provision; amend the statute language to increase the maximum for late fees to $20 or 20 percent; change the notice of lien requirement to a certificate of mailing; and eliminate the newspaper advertising requirement. The CSSA says these changes would save the average California self-storage operation $1,500 per year.

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