The self-storage industry is in midst of a wonderful development boom. After several years of zero building—in all industries, really—building is back in a very big way. Lenders are providing the funds, new investors are entering the storage market, and existing owners are realizing their expansion dreams. It’s a great time to be in self-storage.
Still, there are some looking to put a kibosh on the party. Some city officials, worried about overbuilding, are putting bans in place to prevent self-storage from spreading too far, too fast. Case in point, officials in Margate, Fla., have officially banned all new storage development. They’re sticking with the current supply: nine sites in 9 square miles.
In fact, Florida has been a hotbed for storage construction, with dozens of new properties recently opening or under development. The busy building has led many counties and cities, including Miami, to enact a moratorium on new storage construction or even pass new zoning laws to prevent projects from specific areas.
The Sunshine State isn’t the only one handing down the NIMBY card. Last month, the Poulsbo, Wash., City Council approved a six-month moratorium on self-storage development in the commercial zoning district along State Highway 305. The ban was spurred after the city received applications for two new properties, an expansion of an existing site and other inquiries. And officials in Battle Ground and Ridgefield, Wash., are talking about how to classify self-storage after receiving numerous development applications.
While I can certainly understand the concern—no one wants overbuilt markets, especially storage operators—I do think some municipalities continue to see self-storage circa 1980. Often when we write about these proposals, there are a handful of people who object to a project due to “increased crime,” “light pollution” and, my favorite, “storage is ugly.” Obviously, they haven’t seen the gems in our annual image galleries!
When a group of residents or a city official is biased against storage development, it’s usually because they’re uninformed. Not to say there aren’t some ugly, crime-ridden facilities out there. Storage has been around for decades and, unfortunately, not all owners take pride in their properties. But this can be said for just about any older site, including homes, hospitals, office complexes, warehouses and more.
So how can you help change this perception? If you’re looking to build, be on your A-game. Spend the money for glossy, high-quality renditions of the project you want to build. Show them why your self-storage facility will be an asset, not an eyesore in the community. Don’t skimp on the extras that make today’s storage sites rival high-end office complexes.
In addition, step away from markets that are nearing overbuilt status. Just because you own a piece of great land or you spotted a site “perfect” for storage, doesn’t mean the market needs another facility. Many investors today are building large—multiple stories containing hundreds of units. Unless the market is starved for storage, and some definitely are, carefully think about your plan. While it’s fun to be the newest, prettiest, biggest kid on the block, you have to fill those units with paying customers or your dreams are kaput. This is why it’s critical to invest in a quality feasibility study. If this parcel is meant to be storage, the data will show it.
If you’re an operator, make your place shine. I mean this literally and figuratively. Keep it clean through regular maintenance, stay on top of collections, boot out the bad apples, and practice perfect customer service. If you’re an owner and your property’s occupancy is slipping, find out why. Do you need to make some repairs, add some money to your marketing program, or hire or retrain your staff so they close more sales? Perhaps you could be complacent two years ago, but not today.
If you need guidance on how to operate a better-run facility, the ISS website has dozen of articles on a range of topics, from how to be a social media star to revenue management. You can also lean on your peers at Self-Storage Talk (SST), the industry’s biggest and best community. Whether you’re dealing with a bad tenant and need some advice, seeking know-how on painting roll-up doors, or looking to share your own wisdom, head over to SST and see what’s buzzing.
What do you think about moratoriums on self-storage development? Add a comment below or on Self-Storage Talk.