2022 Facility of the Year – New Facility: Storelocal Hercules

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Located along the coast of San Pablo Bay, Calif., just north of San Francisco and Oakland, is the community of Hercules. The city, which got its name from a local manufacturer’s patented dynamite formula back in 1881 (“Hercules Powder”), is now one of the fastest growing locations in the Bay Area.


Today, there are nearly 30,000 residents, many of whom commute to the larger nearby cities for work. Hercules residents enjoy all the usual city life necessities, but one thing was missing. “There was no storage facility,” says Ryan Lorenzini, one of the principals of The Claremont Companies, LLC, who helped develop and build Storelocal Hercules. “It was an obvious need, and with no direct competition for miles, I could tell this city was going to be a great place to set up shop.”

As a bedroom community for people working outside the city, Hercules has many well-to-do citizens. “Hercules is a good size community with lots of new development and strong household incomes,” says Lorenzini. “However, the community was underserved without having a storage facility. So, we set out to build a modern self-storage facility that would appeal to them—one that was smartly designed, good looking, environmentally friendly, and completely secure.”

With that in mind, the project got underway. After assembling the right team, construction began in October 2020. As the only self-storage facility.

in the city limits of Hercules, the facility quickly made a name for itself within this California community. “It’s a dynamic location, in a ‘dynamite’ city,” Lorenzini says with a smile, alluding to the history of Hercules. “The location has incredible visibility from the highway and also provides easy access to residents in the city. This was a prime location to break new ground.”

Beginning Development And Design

According to Forbes, companies that lead in customer experience outperform others by 80 percent. With this in mind, the team behind Storelocal Hercules took great care to ensure customers would have easy access to all units. The facility consists of three single-story storage buildings, a three-story storage building, and a leasing office. The three-story building, which includes a covered vehicle loading and unloading area, features a massive elevator lobby stocked with oversized hand carts. “We want to provide the best customer experience possible,” says Lorenzini. To meet the needs of the market, Storelocal Hercules also offers a very broad unit mix.

The facility houses 794 units comprising a total of 98,298 rentable square feet (the average unit size is approximately 124 square feet). The facility also includes a number of over-sized drive-up units that can accommodate large RVs or commercial users needing a lot of space. Additionally, Storelocal Hercules boasts climate-controlled units on the third floor of its multistory building, with interior units being air cooled by exhaust fans.

Jeff Higashi, president of the Western Self-Storage Division at Janus International, had this to say: “Claremont Companies has excelled at providing their Storelocal Hercules customers with the very best products and services that self-storage has to offer.”

Overcoming Architectural Challenges

Spanning approximately seven acres, the Storelocal Hercules facility faced a few design challenges along the way. After tackling some of the issues caused by the relatively steep terrain the property would cover, the facility still had to adhere to strict city requirements. This meant that the facility needed to have an attractive commercial look, with the storage buildings being “hidden” behind a more aesthetically pleasing frontage. “The location and visibility from adjacent streets and highways mandated a high level of design aesthetics,” says Ariel Valli, president of Valli Architectural Group, which spearheaded the design. “This was accomplished by the use of non-standard self-storage components, such as a curved roof structure and specific colors. It looks great, and I’m really pleased with how the project turned out!”

“The architectural features conceptualized by Valli Architects included the use of light-gauge steel metal paneling in a multitude of appealing aesthetics,” notes Sarah Swingler, business development manager with MakoRabco construction company. “To increase visual exposure, Storelocal Hercules found ways to use this material to help define the facility in its prominent location. This helps with visual appeal … it’s one of MakoRabco’s finest projects.”

That curved, or “barrel roof,” architecture resembled elements of Bauhaus and art deco architecture, which met the desires of the planning commission and city council. It also provided a distinct and appealing appearance from the street. Attractive exterior LED lighting, designed to enhance the building’s features, security, and customer paths, were also incorporated—all while being energy efficient, something close to Lorenzini’s heart.

“At Storelocal Hercules, we care about the environment, and we know that’s important to residents of the city and the state,” says Lorenzini. In regard to keeping the project sustainable, he recalls when the team discovered a wetland area on the construction site. “We noticed these areas during the design and construction phase of the project, and we didn’t want to cause a disruption. To go about things the right way, our team met with environmental consultants to be sure no damage was done.”

Landscaping features were also a concern. As part of the construction, approximately 800 linear feet of street frontage improvements were necessary. Mike Conley, one of the principals of Claremont Companies, says, “To gain city approval, improvements included the installation of utilities, sidewalk, street striping, and extensive landscaping along the street frontage. Ultimately, it improved not just the customer experience but the streetscape along one of the most heavily traveled areas in town. Talk about a win-win.”

Staying Safe And Secure

Security was a big factor taken into consideration when building the Storelocal Hercules facility. To that end, all of the units at Storelocal Hercules were made accessible through a state-of-the-art security system called Noke – Smart Entry, offered through Janus International. Noke – is a cloud-based digital access control system that enables customers to access the facility and unlock their own unit with a tap of their smartphone.

“With the implementation of Noke – Smart Entry by Janus International, Storelocal Hercules takes security to new heights,” says Bethany Salmon, marketing content manager at Janus International. “The thorough use of technology allows Storelocal Hercules to take advantage of operational benefits such as automatic lock checks, overlocking and releasing, thermal motion mapping, activity mapping, and so much more.”

Noke, combined with Hummingbird software, allows for truly “touchless rentals,” enabling customers to go through an entire move-in process without ever stepping foot in a rental office. This creates incredible efficiency and flexibility for both the customer and management.

“The site’s location and design were a great fit for both Janus International and Noke – Smart Entry’s suite of products,” says John Bilton, Western regional sales manager for the company. “Storelocal Hercules is truly an industry-leading site with great, professional people, and we’re proud to be part of it.”

“Our tech is great, but if you want a more personable experience, we’re here for you in that capacity too,” Lorenzini is quick to add. “We understand the importance of engaging with our customers, so we provide in-person tours and one-on-one help as needed. What we offer is technology with a personal touch.”

To make things more personal, Storelocal Hercules has also installed signage throughout the complex that directs customers to where they’re going in a fun way. “We have incorporated the use of street names and street signs in our interior hallways,” Lorenzini says. “Given
our location, the street names reflect local landmarks, teams, and so on, such as ‘Warrior’s Way’ and ‘Pier 39.’ Little things like this help to keep customers engaged while helping them find their way around.”

Benefits Of Storelocal Branding

Lorenzini says that a lot of the success of the Hercules facility can be attributed to Storelocal®. Storelocal is a co-operative owned by self-storage operators, designed to provide self-storage solutions to its members so they can compete on a larger scale.

“By branding with Storelocal, we were able to achieve greater operational economies of scale and greater online visibility,” says Lorenzini. “Storelocal branded stores are all featured together on one website, which really enhances online presence. It also provides an array of services at preferred pricing, such as search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, customized software, digital signage, merchant services, reputation management, and more.”

Another benefit of the Storelocal partnership is the inclusion of Storelocal Protection. The Storelocal Protection Program is tailored to the needs of owners and their tenants, offering independent self-storage owners significant profit potential while giving their customers peace of mind. With the Storelocal Protection Program, members keep 70 percent of the revenue they collect from tenants who choose protection, regardless of how many stores they have. In addition, facilities with the Noke Smart Entry System keep 75 percent of the revenue.

Powering Through The Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic came into our lives like a bull in a China shop in early 2020 with stay-at-home orders in effect across much of the country, many businesses shut down and some, sadly, closed for good.

Self-storage seemed to be largely unaffected, and some in the industry actually got a major boost. This was largely in part to people needing to free up space to create a home office and businesses looking to downsize. But that didn’t make construction any easier for Storelocal Hercules. “We began in October 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,” recalls Lorenzini. “This resulted in material cost increases, supply chain delays, labor shortages, and other difficulties.”

To get through, Lorenzini collaborated closely with general contractor DAI, van expert in commercial construction with extensive and varied experience in self-storage. “Based on the ability to work as a team we hardly skipped a beat,” says Larry Damato, CEO of DAI. “The only way these challenges could be overcome was through true dedication from all parties not to allow current conditions to create an adversarial relationship. The solution was far more important than the problem, and we are grateful and proud to share in the success of such an amazing facility.”

The City of Hercules itself was also helpful in ramping up occupancy, working with the facility to provide temporary occupancy permits. This allowed Storelocal Hercules to begin moving in customers prior to obtaining the final occupancy permit. “To get this done in under two years, with the help of the city and under the circumstances, we were quite pleased,” Lorenzini adds.

Making A Marketing Mix

To further gain support from the community, Storelocal Hercules made an effort to forge long-term relationships. Not only did facility leadership reach out to Hercules Mayor Dion Bailey, but they also connected with the local chamber of commerce, the Hercules Historical Society, local businesses, prospective tenants, and more.

Six months prior to opening the facility, Allyse Daniels was brought on board to focus on increasing brand awareness within the community and develop positive relationships. “We went to the local farmers market, nearby apartment complexes, new housing communities, and local businesses,” recalls Daniels. “We handed out ‘swag bags’ filled with Storelocal-branded tote bags, mugs, pens, fliers, and coupons … This community-centered marketing generated such a positive response that we were able to build an interest list of over 100 potential customers.”

In addition, Storelocal Hercules made a donation of $1,000 to the Hercules Education Foundation. This nonprofit organization’s mission is to assist and enhance educational opportunities for students in Hercules’ public schools. “Engaging with the community and giving back is a great way to build rapport with locals,” adds Mary Beth Lorenzini, one of the facility’s managers.

Committing To Customer Service

Understanding that the customer is king, Storelocal Hercules was committed from the beginning to implementing new and innovative ways to improve customer satisfaction. Some of the facility’s efforts included:

• Offering convenient processes; customers can view all available units, pricing, sign a lease, verify their identity, or pay a bill anywhere at any time from their smartphone.

• Selling ancillary retail items such as locks, boxes, moving and packing supplies, and more to provide a “one-stop-shop”
experience
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• Providing free water, coffee, and treats in the leasing office

Looking To The Future

Since its opening in April 2022, Storelocal Hercules has met the marketplace with a great deal of acceptance, and its rapid lease up rate proves it. “We continue to fill it up, and the absorption level is great,” says Lorenzini. “We’ll be stabilizing at about 92 to 95 percent in no time. This was really a great endeavor, and we’re happy to provide our services to the people of Hercules.”

Not only was the team excited, so was the city of Hercules. “We’re always looking to build something beautiful for our community,” said Hercules Mayor Dion Bailey at the grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony in April 2022, an event that packed the leasing office with people, party favors, and, of course, celebratory champagne. “It was a privilege to approve this project.”

DEVELOPMENT TEAM

Opening Date: April 2022
Rentable Square Footage: 98,298
Number of Units: 794
Developer: The Claremont Companies, LLC
Owner: Hercules Self Storage, LP
Management: Hercules Self Storage Management, LLC
Architect: Valli Architectural Group
General Contractor: DAI General Contracting
Management Software Systems: Hummingbird by Tenant Inc.
Roof and Structural System: MakoRabco
Security, Access Control, Doors, and Interior System:
Janus International / Noke– Smart Entry

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