Surrounded by the picturesque Andes and Chilean Coast Range mountains, Santiago, Chile, the country’s capital and largest city, has a bustling downtown.
Santiago has a population of nearly 5 million. In the heart of its downtown area, centered on the Plaza de Armas, or city center, on a corner between two major streets, two blocks away from the presidential palace and within a 15-minute drive from the city’s main commercial and residential areas, sits aki KB Minibodegas Alonso Ovalle. It is a seven-story, 24-hour self-storage facility with two underground parking levels. Construction of the $9.5 million facility started in August 2017, and it officially opened for business on Feb. 1, 2019.
Alan Stehberg, chief operating officer for the facility’s owner, aki KB Minibodegas SpA, handles daily operations, marketing, and sales for Minibodegas Alonso Ovalle. The company also has a presence in Chile’s Viña del Mar region, northwest of Santiago, and in Costa Rica.
“My role was to estimate the demand, define the proper unit mix, put the facility in operations, [determine] pricing and promotion strategy, and fill the branch as we projected,” Stehberg says.
The facility was 35.7 percent occupied as of late October 2019.
Obstacles And Technologies
The developer faced a variety of challenges with Minibodegas Alonso Ovalle.
“The first challenge was to convince the downtown authorities and municipality that self-storage adds value to the neighborhood, because they didn’t want self-storage in the downtown area for traffic, trucks, parking, etc.,” says Stehberg. “The second challenge was to build successfully in a small piece of land with many restrictions for being two blocks from the national government palace.”
Among the project’s unique aspects is its “special design and architecture that set with the surrounding area, adding special visual value to that area,” Stehberg notes. “It doesn’t look like a standard self-storage building. Another special issue is the incorporation of new technologies. We incorporated Secure Guard access that allows you to open and manage your units by your mobile phone without keys. That is our new smart floor. Also, we incorporated the VIP floor that incorporated a warm and comfortable carpet.”
Janus International Group, based in the Atlanta area, provided its electronic lock nokē Smart Entry System for the project’s doors, hallways, main gate and units.
“I think some of the challenges overall were working through the labor and installation,” says Christine DeBord, director of marketing for Janus. “It can be in markets where there’s not as much established self-storage that finding labor and installation can be difficult.”
The facility’s close proximity to the presidential palace is unique, and Janus International’s Bluetooth-enabled mobile app is the first such app being used in a self-storage facility in South America.
Other security technology includes an access control system provided by PTI Security Systems of Scottsdale, Ariz.: The Falcon and StorLogix software.
“Our access control system helps facilities protect their tenants’ property while providing a convenient and reliable means to access the property,” says Chadwick Macferran, PTI Security’s director of marketing. “PTI is proud to support aki KB Minibodegas in delivering a world-class self-storage security solution to their customers.”
SiteLink Software LLC, based in Raleigh, N.C., has been running aki Minibodegas’ expanding operation for many years, says Markus Hecker, SiteLink’s chief client advocate. The company provided the operations software that manages and tracks Alonso Ovalle’s units, tenants, and collections.
“SiteLink’s investment in aki’s needs and the Chile market came early on,” Hecker says. “Rolling out SiteLink at additional stores is easy because we localized SiteLink. We adapted it to the regional settings including the currency and Spanish language. SiteLink and its GUI, or graphical user interface, run in Spanish. To date, clients have requested language translations of the GUI into approximately 20 different languages.”
SiteLink’s software is designed to run on any operating system anywhere in the world. It runs in the language, shows the currency dictated by the client, and conforms to local self-storage laws. “We created custom reports and features to accommodate aki’s unique way of operating and analyzing their storage businesses,” Hecker says. “Custom reports and data mining for any operator, in any region where SiteLink is operational today, is one of the program’s many strengths.”
Santiago-based PRO-TG, which provides residential and commercial security systems throughout Chile in industries including mining, renewable energies, and self-storage, created three “security rings” in Minibodegas Alonso Ovalle by combining The Falcon and The StorLogix software systems, states Ruben Caro, PRO-TG’s founder and CEO. The facility’s security system is unusual because it integrates multiple technologies, some of them new to Chile.
“These solutions were specially tailored to satisfy the client’s needs and equipping aki KB with a high level of safety,” Caro says. “This fascinating project involved the design and engineering of video surveillance, calling and background music, fire detection, and access control systems for the entire facility. These systems provide multiple benefits for aki KB operations and their customers. For instance, IP 5K CCTV surveillance allows users to constantly monitor the premises’ traffic from its salesroom.”
According to Caro, the most challenging security aspect on the project was setting up the elevators through The Falcon system. “They had to be configured such that users could only access the floor in which their storage unit is located,” he says. “Since it was the first time a company installed this type of technology in a self-storage facility, it brought many challenges for our experts. Nevertheless, our company’s know-how in security matters and the experience gained from installing multiple security and access control systems to other customers in the past enabled PRO-TG specialists to effectively integrate this solution. It is important to note that PRO-TG is the only company installing PTI’s security solutions in Chile.”
A Brief History
According to Stehberg’s written submission for the project’s consideration for the 2019 Facility of the Year International award, architect Arie Rezepka, who founded aki KB Minibodegas in 2003, was motivated to start the company for two main reasons: interest in self-storage facilities expressed by some former clients when he had worked at his family’s industrial development company, Rezepka Development, and the availability of a partner who owned properties ripe for self-storage development.
Rezepka visited the United States to research self-storage facilities. His company’s first project was a nearly 27,000-square-foot facility in downtown Santiago. Then the company developed four more facilities in Chile between 2004 and 2010, two more in 2013, and another in 2014, which was the biggest in Chile, and a facility in Costa Rica in 2015.
This self-storage development experience put the company in a good position to develop the Alonso Ovalle facility.
Alonso Ovalle’s design took longer than expected, but it has paid off handsomely. “The façade’s final look is amazing, and the interior details of the facility make a big impact on people who visited,” says Stehberg. “The impressive majesty of the building became the main factor moving clients to choose the facility.”
Downtown Santiago has some of the city’s highest residential density. Rezepka and the company’s project manager and commercial and development departments took this into account when determining Alonso Ovalle’s unit mix. Units range from about 16 square feet to about 355 square feet.
“The self-storage outfit consisted of orange doors, soffit insulation, and a hallway network in order to create a clean and well-lighted environment, with parking and vehicle access,” Stehberg says. “The building has two smart elevators placed within the facility strategically located to avoid large distances for our customers.”
These elevators come equipped with an access password to enable customers to go to the floor that has their unit. A large glass wall in the building’s main corner allows for a bright lobby. The lobby is decorated with inviting colors, leather couches, a workstation with a desktop computer, and a kitchenette with coffee and snacks. It also has free Wi-Fi and a private meeting room for customers.
The building’s sixth floor is a VIP floor with wall-to-wall carpeting in the units and hallways. The facility has three retail stores on the first floor and aki KB’s sales office on the ground level. All of them have separate access from the street. Each of the two underground parking levels has separate access and a separate ramp, stairs, and elevator.
The developer chose CVV as the general contractor for construction because of its extensive experience building residential, commercial, and warehouse projects. Alonso Ovalle’s main construction challenge had to be addressed at the start of the process: shifting soil on a small plot of land. The facility’s main structure, seven above-ground floors and two underground parking levels, is made completely of concrete.
Insulation panels were placed on the walls and the building’s exterior. Two sides have a second layer made of steel panels, and two levels have curtain walls, creating inside luminosity and making visible the corporate orange rolling doors, which along with the Janus exterior doors and a beige panel gives it a spectacular look that’s not usual for Chilean self-storage standards. All the final details were handpicked by Arie himself, along with MW Architects from the international façade vendor, Hunter Douglas.
Alonso Ovalle has a 24-hour security guard; 67 IP CCTV cameras placed throughout the facility and its surroundings, which can be monitored by a computer or mobile device; nokē electronic access on second-floor units; intrusion alarms; automatic vehicle gates; and fire detection systems.
Marketing Minibodegas Style
Stehberg mentions that Chile’s self-storage industry is not characterized by big marketing and advertising campaigns, but aki Minibodegas is an exception.
“Even though they are very conscious of the costs invested in marketing, they put a lot of creativity and boldness on them in order to achieve a high impact under low costs,” says Stehberg. “Arie and his team took a creative approach and focused on creating a viral video campaign staring a famous Chilean showman showing how aki KB can solve day-to-day problems. The videos reach thousands of people online. Aki KB placed billboards where people can recognize the product, such as Paseo Bulnes Pedestrian Walkway, making aki KB visible for the huge pedestrian flow that walk by it every day. This has been instrumental in generating brand recognition and getting the attention of potential clients.”
Other brand recognition efforts include:
- Relationships with multifamily developers, armed forces, banks, loyalty clubs, retail stores, utilities, and others “aiming straight to specific potential customers: people moving from their house/home.”
- Facebook: The company started enhancing its social media presence in 2013, “transforming it into a source of contact and diffusion. Today aki KB has over 20,000 fans.”
- Google: “Today it is the main source of diffusion, using AdWords campaigns specifically designed to maximize the investment.”
- Flyers delivered throughout the city to reach target customers and placed in the main newspapers in Santiago.
- Special discounts to boost occupancy and referral campaigns to gain new customers from existing ones.
- Mailings and online survey: “Personalized welcome, gratitude, and happy birthday greetings sent to every client.”
- Alonso Ovalle officially opened in February 2019, but aki Minibodegas held a grand opening with local businesspeople, local celebrities, politicians, and long-term customers designed to improve relationships with vendors, real estate companies, and local institutions.
Aki KB Minibodegas has a reputation for creativity, Stehberg says, and it’s exemplified by services including:
• Online chat on its website, where clients can ask for help or a quote and manage invoices and payments.
• Technological security using Janus International security solutions.
• A VIP floor in its facilities—a first in Latin America.
• A partnership with AWTO, the biggest per-hour car rental service in Chile.
aki KB After Alonso Ovalle
“Although the brand is already positioned as an industry leader, Arie and his partners’ thirst to ﬁnd new ways to improve the industry are not easy to appease,” Stehberg says.
In fact, the company already has plans for three new self-storage facilities with nearly 194,000 square feet of combined rentable storage space by 2020.
“The new additions to the portfolio will increase the company’s leadership in an international level,” Stehberg adds. “More than a self-storage company, aki KB improves the quality of life.”
Facility Owner: aki KB Minibodegas SpA
Facility management: aki KB Minibodegas S.P.A.
Architects: MW Arquitectos, Providencia, Santiago
General Contractor, Exterior Walls, Roof, and Glass Walls : Claro Vicuña Valenzuela Company (CVV), Santiago
Geotechnical: BRAC Engineering, Macul, Santiago
Hallway and door system: Janus International Group, Temple, Georgia; PTI Security System, Scottsdale, Arizona
Low voltage systems: PRO-TG, Santiago
Management Software: SiteLink Software LLC, Raleigh, North Carolina
Jerry LaMartina is a freelance reporter and editor based in Shawnee, Kansas.