Modular Mini Storage recently worked with a customer who wanted to build an RV-storage facility in a light-industrial zone. However, city planners had one stipulation—he needed to include some office space for small businesses. Two flex-space buildings were constructed, and every unit was leased to a commercial customer. Later, two more buildings were erected with the same result.
What is Flex Space?
Flex space is basically storage with some office space. Also known as incubator space, it’s a combination of warehouse, shop or light-manufacturing space with room for phones and a few desks. It provides entrepreneurs a place to start up and small firms a place to do business. As with self-storage, multiple tenants decrease the impact of vacancies.
In the case cited above, each building had four 700-square-foot office units with adjoining 1,400-square-foot warehouse bays. In addition, 14 -by-50-foot units without offices were included to broaden the project’s appeal to a wider group of potential tenants. Office units consisted of a reception area, two private offices and a restroom.
Units were leased for three to five years, so there was no need for a full-time manager, a Yellow Pages ad or a website. A simple newspaper ad attracted new tenants.
Drive aisles needed to be wide enough for a 4-foot walkway and 18-foot straight-in parking spaces in front of offices, plus a 30-foot drive. It was a minimum of 52 feet for offices on one side of the drive aisle, or 74 feet with offices on both sides.
Offices and shops generally require more parking than warehouse space. Most of this can be accomplished in front of the tenant’s unit. Every municipality seems to have different standards, so self-storage owners might have to include more parking here or there.
Why Add Flex Space?
Self-storage projects can be a terrific investment, but it’s a daunting task to get financing right now. Not only are banks requiring smaller loan-to-value ratios, they want larger equity (customer cash and property ownership). Flex projects can be smaller in scale, often just one or two buildings, and easier to finance.
In areas where the self-storage market is already saturated, flex space is worth consideration. Lot sizes can be smaller and location is less critical. This kind of project is allowed in various commercial and industrial zones where self-storage might not be.
Flex buildings can also complement an RV-storage facility. Larger RV spaces can be blended into flex-space buildings and appeal to commercial customers as well.
Potential customers include contractors of all kinds, small businesses, distributors, companies looking for a satellite location, and large RV owners. There’s a good market for this kind of space, especially at lower cost than the tilt-up concrete buildings prevalent in most business parks. In this economy, many companies would like to downsize into a more affordable space.
Why Modular Mini Storage?
Modular Mini Storage’s pre-fabricated walls can easily be insulated, wired, plumbed, sheetrocked and sided with a variety of architectural finishes. Firewalls are no problem. Costs are much lower than concrete tilt-up, rigid-frame or framed-in-place construction. Foundations are simple turned-down slabs. Almost all walls are weight-bearing shear walls that distribute roof loads over the floor slab (no special footings to support trusses or rigid frames).
Modular Mini Storage has provided more than a 1,000 building kits in its 17 years, many specially designed for severe Northwest climates. The company pre-fabricates steel-framed walls in its Tualatin, Ore., shop to ensure quality, shorten construction time and lower costs. All exterior walls are double-wall construction, roofs are standing-seam with extra insulation, and partitions are specially designed to minimize condensation. Buildings are tight, well-insulated and energy-efficient.
Modular Mini Storage’s version of flex space includes 14-foot- to 30-foot-wide bays with 12-foot-wide by 14-foot-high doors. Walls are prefabricated in the shop and delivered to the site ready to stand in place. Interior office walls, windows, doors and insulation are included with the building kit. Back-lit awnings are available for office fronts. Construction costs are about the same as a typical self-storage facility.
Environmentally green construction includes steel components with a high percentage of recycled steel, oriented-strand board made from fast-growing sustainable wood sources, and organic insulation with a binder that requires 70 percent less energy than oil-based binders.
Modular also provides site layouts, appropriate unit mixes and assists self-storage owners during the planning and permit process.
Terry Wellner is an engineer and president of Modular Mini Storage, a building-kit manufacturer near Portland, Ore., that specializes in easy-to-build panelized self-storage, RV/boat storage and flex-space buildings. Mr. Wellner works with customers to help them make the best use of their properties by providing well-designed site layouts, appropriate unit mixes and buildings that best meet their needs. For more information, call 503.692.3532; e-mail [email protected].