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November 4, 2016

This article originally appeared on the storEDGE Blog.

Here’s a scenario: you’re on site at a new facility build and the owner of the coffee shop down the block stops to chat as she’s driving by. She asks you what you’re building and you proudly say, “self storage!” Suddenly, her friendly smile starts to fade. You can only imagine what she’s picturing: a concrete jungle with rows and rows of hard-featured buildings surrounded by a chain-link security fence. Not exactly what every business wants to have next door.

Self storage often gets a bad rap for being unaesthetic. A new brand is trying to change all that. Beyond Self Storage is opening up facilities in markets around the Midwest, and they’re looking to bring a much more modern and community-centric business model to the self storage industry. Ben Hagedorn, self-storage operations manager at NorthPoint Development, is leading the development of Beyond Self Storage.

Image from inside NorthPoint Development’s newly updated JOCO Self Storage facility in Lenexa, KS.

“We know self storage isn’t the sexiest business. That’s one of the reasons we like it,” says Hagedorn. “But it doesn’t mean we should build ugly products that nobody wants to see or live by. Our new model is significantly more attractive than traditional self storage builds and we’re doing it on two acres instead of ten. It’s a much more desirable product for cities.”

Hagedorn and his team at NorthPoint Development have just recently added self storage to the company’s portfolio of over 21,000,000 square feet of building experience since they began developing industrial, multi-family, and senior living properties in 2012. For a smooth transition into the self storage industry, NorthPoint has enlisted the help of self storage consultant Jim DiNardo to assist with the behind the scenes work of launching the new self storage brand.

“We’re going to be building class A facilities and leveraging technology,” says DiNardo, “which means excellent security systems, cameras, gates, mobile rental services…all the bells and whistles to make it a very nice looking development. NorthPoint Development is looking to compete with the best of the best with the Beyond Self Storage brand.”

Wondering what separates “class A” facilities from the rest? According to the Building Owners and Managers Association International(BOMA), class A facilities have these ten key elements:

  1. Location. Class A facilities are in close proximity to desirable locations, such as public parks with food trucks, downtown business centers, local landmarks, and new developments.
  2. Age. Class A facilities are new developments, or old facilities that have been upgraded so that they do not show their age.
  3. Amenities. Class A facilities have many amenities, which can range from standard (like wifi or free parking) to superior (like a fitness center or rooftop garden).
  4. Style. Class A facilities show superior, modern aesthetic design, both on the exterior and interior.
  5. Systems. Class A facilities offer state of the art security, elevators, lighting, HVAC and safety systems.
  6. Finishes. Class A facilities have quality standard finishes that are appropriate for the design and style of the building.
  7. Functionality. Class A facilities have exceptional accessibility for tenants (like wide driveways and easily accessible bathrooms) and are superior in both “form” and “function.”
  8. Price. Class A facilities are (rightfully) priced at the top of the market and exhibit a strong market presence.
  9. Employees. Going along with price, Class A facilities provide competitive pay and a high quality work life environment for their employees.
  10. Ownership and management. Class A facilities maintain an excellent reputation for both building quality and facility management behind their brand name.

Although this concept is relatively new to the self storage industry, Hagedorn and his team at NorthPoint Development believe it’s the obvious choice for new developments in premier markets. “We feel this is where the industry is going,” says Hagedorn. “All of these Class A features make it more convenient for customers who demand more amenities and it also makes the facility significantly more attractive as a building. Not to mention we are proud of what we’re building.”

Beyond Self Storage is currently building two new facilities in the St. Louis metro. Both facilities will be multi-story and 100% climate controlled with a nice drive-through and well-landscaped property. The new facilities will also offer free wi-fi and a conference room for tenants to use.

Image from NorthPoint Development’s mockup of the new Beyond Self Storage facility underway in St. Louis, MO. The new facility is expected to open in May 2017.

“When we show the city what we want to build, often times they’ll say, ‘that looks more like a nice office building than a storage building.’ And that’s because of our modern design,” says Hagedorn. “We want it to be an attractive, community-centric space.”

NorthPoint Development currently has one facility operating in Lenexa, KS that is branded as JOCO Self Storage. The property boasts a newly redesigned lobby, upgraded security and a new resident facility manager, Stevey Heinrich. Heinrich brings a customer-oriented approach and over 9 years of facility management experience to the brand.

“Before we took over management of JOCO Self Storage, I secret shopped the competition in the area, and that’s where I found Stevey,” says Hagedorn. “I told her I was looking for a storage unit and she showed me around and did a great job. But what really stuck out to me was when I came in the next day and she remembered my name. We had only spent 30 minutes together the day before, and somehow the next day, after helping over a hundred customers, she remembered my name. It was just fantastic. It left a great impression on me. I said, ‘that’s the kind of customer service that we want to build our brand around.’”

JOCO Self Storage is well known by members of the community, thanks to the facility’s prime location next to I-35 and the unique crown design on top of it’s building. As part of their new business model, Hagedorn and Heinrich have made an ongoing commitment to support good works in the Lenexa community.

Image from the newly updated JOCO Self Storage facility lobby in Lenexa.

“We’re building relationships with the community and giving back. Our goal is to do something for the community every month,” says Heinrich. “For November, we’re doing a food drive called Moving for Hunger where we invite members of the community and customers to donate at least five non-perishable items in exchange for a free month of storage. We’re using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to let everyone know about the Moving for Hunger campaign.”

Heinrich has scheduled more community-oriented charity projects for the future, including hosting a toy drive and a blood drive. She also has plans to support breast cancer awareness and prevention by working with a local mammography RV that is also stored in one of JOCO’s covered parking spaces.

“When we enter a new market, one of the most important things to us is to be active in the community. We want to give back to the community that we’re in and build relationships,” says Hagedorn.

The JOCO Self Storage facility currently offers 612 storage units, all 100% climate controlled. The facility can process rentals both on-site and through its website, which also offers online bill pay, e-sign, and tenant account management through Rental Center™. Gates and entry doors for the multi-level facility were recently upgraded to be keypad accessible, and newly updated elevators serve tenants looking to rent above ground-level. The small-but-mighty facility packs a punch by also offering indoor and outdoor parking for RVs, boats, cars, and trailers.

Image from the recently updated JOCO Self Storage facility in Lenexa, featuring the building’s unique crown design.

Going into 2017, NorthPoint Development is planning to build Beyond Self Storage facilities in the St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Detroit markets. After taking over management of the Lenexa facility, NorthPoint has seen strong leasing activity – over 85% of the units at JOCO Self Storage are occupied. With state of the art features, first-class amenities and prime location, the facility is thriving. NorthPoint plans to continue their success into 2017 as they rapidly expand the Beyond Self Storage brand.

With rapid expansion often comes growing pains, but DiNardo applauds NorthPoint’s business model and the community-first approach behind the Beyond Self Storage brand. “Sometimes developers aren’t capable of really using a data-driven approach and instead just do things on sort of a hunch or local research,” says DiNardo. “But that’s where NorthPoint really takes an analytical approach. They’re using in-depth market data to find where there’s a need for class A self storage, and they have the proven ability to do really nice projects. They’re going all in on storage, they’re organized, and they’re able to move things along quickly.”

This article originally appeared on the storEDGE Blog written by Jana Haecherl.
Jana is a marketing content writer living in Kansas City. A graduate of South Dakota State University with a degree in psychology and business, Jana enjoys bringing technology, web marketing and industry news and tips to self storage owners and managers.