Self-storage construction spending hits four-year high

February 4, 2014 1
Self-storage construction spending hits four-year highWorkers at a Mako Steel construction project in San Pedro, CA.

Shovels were well-used tools in the self-storage business last year. And they could be even more prominent in 2014.

Construction spending on self-storage facilities is on the rise, with $530 million tallied in 2013. That’s the largest amount of self-storage construction spending in four years, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Total self-storage construction spending rose 48.8 percent compared with 2012. Spending last peaked in 2007, with $1.2 billion invested in developing, renovating or expanding facilities. Self-storage construction spending dropped to a low of $241 million in 2011.

Since then, self-storage construction has been on the upswing, mostly thanks to expansion and renovation projects, builders say.

“By far, 2013 was the best year we’ve seen since 2008. Hands down,” said Caesar Wright, president of Carlsbad, CA-based self-storage builder Mako Steel.

Mako Steel Costa Mesa

A Mako Steel project under construction in Costa Mesa, CA.

Pushing Dirt Again
Wright said that at one point in 2013, his company had 60 projects on the board at the same time.

“Of those, well over 50 percent were add-ons to existing facilities; that seems to be the bulk of our work. Rental rates increased and occupancy levels increased, so operators wanted to expand if they had the opportunity,” Wright said.

Rod Lockard, vice president of construction at Investment Real Estate LLC in York, PA, said his firm worked on several expansion projects in 2013 that had been put on hold by operators. Many facilities were built between 2005 and 2008, he said, but some owners never got around to planned additions because of the recession. That backlog produced plenty of work at Lockard’s company in 2013.

“As we rolled into 2013, lending and banks loosened up. A lot of these projects were designed and approved, so there was a quick ramp-up,” Lockard said. “We still have quite a few of them we are doing in 2014.”

Jaime Lindau, director of marketing and product development at Trachte Building Systems, said sales at the company climbed 20 percent last year compared with 2012. “We were very busy,” Lindau said.

Lindau said Trachte had active projects in 43 states and Canadian provinces last year. Unlike some of its peers, 60 percent of Trachte’s projects were brand-new facilities.

Mako Steel Costa Mesa

Ground-up projects are expected to ramp up this year at Mako Steel.

Forecast for 2014
Mako Steel’s Wright said he expects new construction to take up a larger percentage of his company’s business in the coming months. “I think we will begin to see some ground-ups come into play,” he said.

Louis Gilmore, owner of Pennsylvania-based company Miller Building Systems, said his first-quarter pipeline for self-storage projects is 30 percent fuller than it was during the same time in 2013.

“It is unseasonably busy,” Gilmore said. “You typically don’t see people pushing permits in December and January, but people are still pressing ahead.”

He added: “This first quarter looks better than any I’ve seen in the last five years.”

Lockard from Investment Real Estate said his company is working on four new facilities. While he expects demand for new facilities to pick up over the next year or two, development will be approached more conservatively than it was during the 2006-08 boom.

“It is not going to be what it was,” Lockard said. “Before, there was a lot of ‘shoot from the hip.’ Now, you have more savvy investors really doing their homework.”

NitNeil

This is an artist’s rendering of a facility being built in Chattanooga, TN, by NitNeil Partners.

Smarter Development
Michael Scanlon, president and CEO of the Self Storage Association, said 300 to 400 facilities were built over past couple of years. He thinks that number could double in 2014 alone.

“Based on the reporting mechanisms we use, probably about 800 are going to be constructed over the next year,” Scanlon said.

However, he estimates that perhaps a quarter of those planned projects won’t move forward.

As the industry gears up to build more facilities, Scanlon cautions against overdoing it.

“As occupancy in the industry nears 90 percent, people are going to look at expansion,” Scanlon said. “I hope we don’t get into another binge cycle where we overbuild. That is something I hope people are educated on and don’t do.”

Adding more square footage to an already crowded market can diminish revenue for everyone, he said.

Developers need to do “very detailed due diligence” to avoid building in markets that already are saturated, Scanlon said.

Safeguard

Safeguard Self Storage, which tackled this project in 2011, is building two facilities in Chicago.

New Projects on Deck
Since the beginning of the year, self-storage operators have announced a slew of construction projects across the U.S. Here’s a roundup of some of the projects getting off the ground in 2014:

  • Public Storage Inc. has at least two projects in the works. The company won approval to build a 174,000-square-foot facility with 1,500 units at 5500 San Fernando Road in Glendale, CA. The company also bought a 4.5-acre site at 4550 Clark Road in Sarasota, FL, for $1.3 million.
  • Atlanta-based NitNeil Partners is spending $4 million to build  a 57,000-square-foot facility in Chattanooga, TN. The facility will be managed by Uncle Bob’s Self Storage.
  • Clark Investment Group of Wichita, KS, has committed to construction of five facilities in the New York City metro area, a mix of new development and conversions. Each project has about 100,000 square feet and more than 1,300 units.
  • Atlanta-based Safeguard Self Storage has two facilities on the drawing board in Chicago, with a combined footprint of 113,000 square feet and price tag of $15 million.
  • The Amsdell Companies is moving ahead with two conversion projects in its hometown of Cleveland. The first project will convert the historic buildings at 1545-1559 E. Superior Ave. into a 700-unit climate-controlled facility.
  • North Carolina-based Penton Development is building its first self-storage facility, at 5307 Oleander Drive in Wilmington, NC. The 200-unit facility is expected to open this summer.
  • Rapanos Family LC obtained zoning approval to build a 20,900-square-foot, 166-unit facility at 1547 Washington St. in Midland, MI.
  • Lehi, UT-based Alpine Storage started demolition work at the former Sears building in Wichita Falls, TX. The conversion project will feature a drive-through area.
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