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Making a Self-Storage Building Project Beat the Odds

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By : Scott Meyers    99 or more times read
Arcland Group has become one of the country's best builders of self-storage units, and can expect its reputation for problem solving to keep it growing. But even the most optimistic of Arcland's people must have thought that one of its self-storage construction projects was deliberately meant to test the company's patience.

The project, begun in late 2008, involved putting a self-storage unit on a piece of land in Ranson, WV. On the surface, that wouldn't seem to be much of a problem for a firm with Arcland's experience. But building just a run-of-the-mill self-storage facility would have contrasted poorly with the town's architectural patterns, something Arcland's staff did not think could be appropriate.

The real construction problem facing Arcland was the site itself, where a dramatically sloping backside made it appear as if no building could be designed to overcome the abrupt change in levels from front to back. The inspired solution was to construct a one-story front for the storage facility, and a two-story backside that provided more storage space and added to the building's overall stability. Care was taken to make sure the added material needed for a stepped-foundation retaining wall, blended in with Ranson's overall architectural standards. And the front of the facility simply fit in perfectly with the rest of the town's business designs.

Arcland's design and construction efforts for the Ranson storage facility are a study in site potential and follow through. The project itself was billed as just another project. But it proved to be more than that. Arcland found ways to construct a storage unit that fit the difficult locale, provided ample storage space, and did it all with the strength and grace requested by the client. This may not be the most dramatic construction tale ever told, but it certainly is a lesson in seeing opportunity and taking hold of it.

Unfortunately, problems with the Ranson project were still developing. The sagging economy caught up with the storage facility. Fewer rental tenants meant a change in business strategies. The original design concept called for a two-phase, mixed-use project that used storefront glazing to attract rental customers to occupy adjoining units. Flexibility designed in the facility's plans, along with responsive management, enabled the business model to adapt to the new economic challenges.

Vacant spaces created by the loss of tenants were turned into very popular air-conditioned storage units that had street-side show doors. Those changes helped offset lost rental income. And they give proof to the idea that the best design for just about any project provides for adjustments, based on what might occur under future conditions. The original strategy to build out the Ranson site in two phases gave management the opportunity to delay starting the second phase and keep from overextending itself during a bad economy.

The foresight adopted by the management team puts the project in position to adjust to the mix of available units based on how demand for the facility grows with time. Any plans for future development will probably be made easier because banks and other lenders are more willing to provide funds to outfits with proven track records. As it stands now, I think Ranson Self-Storage is in the position to benefit from any upward tick in the economy. What occurred in that West Virginia town could only happen because construction and management experts put together a plan that countered initial problems and made the future a workable entity.

Scott Meyers, CSSM is the owner and President of Alcatraz Storage® which operates several Self Storage Facilities in the Midwest. Scott is a Certified Self Storage Manager (CSSM©) through the National Self Storage Association and has been a real estate investor since 1993. He was an instructor of the Landlord 101 course through the University of Indianapolis and now Scott Speaks to Investor groups nationwide and has students around the world, but mostly enjoys spending time at home with his wife and 3 young children in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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