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08 Oct 2019

How Unsexy Is Self Storage? Apparently A Lot Of People Think Very


Jonathan Eakin

Cheif Creative Officer

It should come as no surprise that the overall business of self storage is an interesting one. The foundation of self storage often surrounds what many people in the industry call “The 4 D’s of self storage,” which are life stages that represent frequent reasons as to why someone would use the service of a storage facility. They are as follows:

Such a happy list we have here. While many think this list is often a stereotype that over-exaggerates the gloom associated with the need for a storage unit, it still provides a small window into the personal mindset that a self storage customer might have. Customer service within the industry has been a top priority for many facilities and 3PLs for this very reason. The customers who walk into those doors (or order online) many not be too happy about being there themselves.

To add insult to injury, for decades the physical appearances of these facilities have not been conducive to the image that say, a City Council would want to project for their residents. Cinder-block jail cells that house unwanted belongings is, by itself, is a very unsexy concept.

While the visibility of road-side storage facilities has seen major upgrades in recent years, many of these Council members do not immediately become excited by approving the development of one in their areas.

On the flip of the coin these operations are often successful businesses that counter demand with supply, more recently are beautiful buildings, and are also low risk contributors that don’t overwhelm with traffic or noise violations.

Ok ok, so are they sexy or not. For this train of thought we’re going to look at Overland Park, a city which has recently undergone some change in efforts to make a better city.

Citing The Kansas City Star, the city was off to a great start as the City Council unanimously voted to demolish and rebuild on top of two of the city’s most crime-ridden motels. Good? Great. However, what sparked a bit of backlash was how the redevelopment plan involves a large self storage facility right near their residential neighborhood.

The developer Sky Real Estate LLC had original plans for a $39 million commercial redevelopment on that area which includes a 3-story 76,000 square foot storage facility, along with restaurant space, retail space, and a small hotel. That plan has since hit walls and now has transpired into what many think might just be a car wash and the storage facility. The small hotel has since pivoted into an office building.

According to local affiliates, the Ramada and Knights Inn were both high crime intersections that have fueled drug activity, code violations, and blight. With the resolution in place to remedy those problems, you’d think that any thriving industry to take its place would be applauded.

“A storage facility is not my first choice,” stated Councilman Paul Lyons.

Resident Mark Hunter continues “These are pretty mundane businesses,” pointing out that this is a very prominent street corner in the city and Overland Park deserves ‘something special.’ Korb Maxwell told the City Council that ‘something special’ is coming, however more public scrutiny could be looming once the architecture designs are made available. Maxwell goes on to state that a well-managed storage facility is required to make the financing work, and will be the first development built.

What becomes very interesting is that the city will plan to use landscaping and the topography of the actual land to screen that facility from the nearby neighborhood. Is it right to conceal the self storage facility from public street view?

From a consumer’s perspective, sure. You didn’t want to look at your unused items in your home so you’ve chosen to put them into a building that you don’t want to look at either. However from a business perspective that comes with a bit of scrutiny, decreasing the viewable eyeballs that might generate leads.

Councilman Lyons has since been very aggravated that the development process has transpired so poorly, commenting that this intersection is essentially the gateway into the City of Overland and the idea was to make it exciting. “It makes no sense to put an office building on this site based on what’s going to be there. I can’t see an office tenant wanting to move next to a storage facility and car wash,” he says.

Councilman Logan Heley adds that a nice change to the city’s slogan could be “Self storage and $8 car washes: Welcome to Overland Park.”

Just West of Overland Park in Lenexa City, Kansas, City Council members are are experiencing identical push-back from the public over a proposed self storage facility. Leah Wankum of the SMP cites that city leaders received roughly 90 letters of complaint, primarily centered around the items below:

“I don’t understand why nobody else is putting these in residential areas and we have to do that, we have to suffer through this,” said Tad Pritchett, whose lives just north of the project area. “This is an industrial style complex. And to me, it looks like an Eastern bloc manufacturing facility that does not fit the character of the neighborhood, nor the zoning and use of the property nearby.”

An unrelated yet similar process is unfolding in Concord North Carolina, as self storage development permits have been submitted for approval however the public is less than pleased. As reported by Adam Thompson of the Independent Tribune:

“We think it doesn’t really fit with the character of the neighborhood, and we are frankly opposed to it,” local resident Chris Criner said. “We are going to bring as many people as we can to the hearing. We hope to have strength in numbers. We are going to try the best we can.” He goes on to question why a service like storage is even needed in their area.

The events in Concord strongly parallel those in Overland Park. One of the signature claims from Clint Patterson, a developer at Sterling Development, is that they will keep tall trees from the previous development to provide buffer from the road. It seems in both these cases the public would rather not look at a storage facility.

Are these cases underestimating the energy that a storage facility can bring to a city corner? Or are these cases of concern merited? One thing that is for certain is that the visual presence of these facilities has greatly improved, and whether you are in a city central or on the outskirts, the demand remains relatively consistent.

Maybe we need to refresh how we define the word “sexy” before we can properly make assumptions about the entire self storage industry.

Source: The Kansas City Star Editors Lynn Horsely & Sarah Ritter Source: The Independent Tribune Editor Adam Thompson Source: Shawnee Mission Post Editor: Leah Wankum

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