Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Self-storage industry charging ahead

Demand driven by mostly homeowners, though businesses also rent space

E-mail this article \ Print this article

Tom Fedor⁄The Gazette
This U-Haul self-storage under construction in Frederick is part of the national industry boom.
When ezStorage Self Storage neared completion of its 1,039-unit building on Urbana Pike last month, several customers were ‘‘waiting with bated breath” for it to open, said vice president Robert Snukis.

With 42 locations in the Maryland-Washington, D.C., region, ezStorage opened its first facility in Frederick County next to Chevy Chase Bank on Jan. 11, and with wrap-up construction ongoing it has already secured two dozen customers.

‘‘We have homeowners who don’t want to get into the cost of a shed. Their garage is full. Their basement is full,” Snukis said. ‘‘Apartment owners are certainly limited in storage. Certainly there’s enough people for more storage in Frederick.”

The Columbia company purchased two adjacent pad sites around the building, and when construction on an access road is complete in the next several weeks, it will try to line up tenants such as a fast-food restaurant, Snukis said.

EzStorage, with its buildings averaging 85 percent capacity, is one of at least seven self-storage companies leveraging the growing homeowners market in Frederick County.

Nationwide, the self-storage industry has been among the fastest-growing sectors in commercial real estate in the past 30 years, according to the Self Storage Association. In 2007, more than 51,500 storage facilities were operating in the United States.

United Stor-All Centers LLC of Blue Bell, Pa., with its property management company in Mount Airy, has become a nationwide company with six locations in Maryland, including in Baltimore, District Heights, Kensington , Silver Spring and Frederick.

United Stor-All’s New Market Mini Storage opened eight months ago on Old National Pike near New Market with about 400 units and is already at 50 percent capacity, said general manager Brian Schmidt. Forty-five of its 85 recreational vehicle lots are also reserved, he said. Unlike ezStorage’s five-story building, the storage facility’s three buildings are all accessed on ground level.

‘‘This area just seems to be growing so quickly,” Schmidt said. ‘‘It’s definitely been a great opportunity for us.”

Stephen Conner, general manager of United Stor-All’s East Frederick Storage facility near Frederick Municipal Airport, said occupancy rates have slightly decreased from the 100 percent capacity it enjoyed last year, but ‘‘business is still booming.” The storage industry tends to mirror trends in housing, he said: When more new homes are constructed, self-storage demand increases.

From 1996 through 2006, United Stor-All developed 29 projects costing roughly $135 million with a 12.5 percent average rate of return, according to its Web site. From 20 percent to 40 percent of customers use the units, which range from 12 to 600 square feet, for business, Conner said.

Public Storage, with 2,000 storage locations nationwide, has three locations in the city of Frederick, including at 396 Prospect Blvd. On an adjacent site, construction is under way on a U-Haul facility.