Within northeast Ohio’s largest metropolitan area, there is a suburb of Cleveland called Solon. Over the past several years, it has been recognized by publications such as Money and Bloomberg Businessweek for being one of the safest cities in the state as well as one of the best places to live and raise kids.
Solon also touts a strong economy, a highly rated school system, and an exemplary online business community that was honored with Google eCity awards in 2013 and 2014. And the city’s demographics are prime for self-storage development, with an average annual household income of nearly $100,000 and a stable population of more than 23,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
For the Norm Kotoch, Sr., Solon seemed like an ideal location for their next self-storage facility, especially since there were only four existing storage sites in the market. Alas, following a lawsuit, self-storage had become prohibited within city limits.
Although the Kotoch family knew that the city was against another self-storage facility coming to town, they utilized a purchase agreement to secure a plot of land that held a former defense contractor’s manufacturing building and prepared for their voice of reason to be heard. Luckily, 2018 happened to be an election year, and there was a pro-business gentleman running for mayor. Edward Krause ran on the stance that his administration would welcome new companies to Solon with open arms.
Fortunately for the Kotoches, Krause was elected and there was plenty of time left in the due diligence period for the family to persuade the city to allow them to develop a self-storage facility. As soon as the new mayor was sworn into office, Norm Kotoch, Jr., scheduled a meeting with him to plead their case. The law director, fire chief, and planning commissioner were all present at that meeting. They discussed the city’s ordinance as well as the fire chief’s safety concerns.
Kotoch, Jr., addressed the code that stated, “Self-storage services open to the general public were prohibited in the city of Solon,” by explaining that the family’s self-storage facility would be secure and only permit tenants with signed leases and entry passcodes to be on site.
As for the safety concerns of the fire chief, Kotoch, Jr., assured him that each new tenant would be provided with a list of items prohibited from storage as an addendum to their lease. Moreover, the facility would permit fire inspections and its staff would be instructed to check on new tenants as they move into units to ensure that combustibles and other hazardous materials would not be stored.
With the mayor and fire chief on board, the request was taken to the planning commission. While the support for the project was split, the Kotoch family managed to drum up enough votes for it to pass.
The Kotoches finally had a green light for the facility. However, later in the development process, they would have to approach the planning commission once again to request signage as the city of Solon had never permitted a business to erect an electronic message board. An LED message board as part of the ground sign was reluctantly approved after the family assured the commission that there would be no flashing or rotating messages on the board. In addition, a light sensor to automatically dim the sign was included to manage the brightness.
Resolving Risky Issues
Despite having permission to develop self-storage, a major issue arose during the due diligence process. Asbestos was discovered in the existing building’s floor tiles and windows, which was unkown the sellers. The Kotoches approached the sellers about the carcinogenic fibers and the associated remediation costs. Thankfully, the sellers offered to defer some of the costs of the asbestos removal.
After remediating the asbestos and closing on the property, construction could commence. The work started with the demolition of approximately 10,000 square feet of office space as well as the removal of electrical panels and interior equipment used by the former factory owners. The second building hurdle occurred when one contractor, who was operating a front-end loader, began tearing out what he thought was a non-load bearing wall. Although there were no injuries, a section of the building’s roof started to collapse from the misstep.
The error cost more than $100,000 to repair and set the project back several weeks as the remaining roof had to be collapsed around the collision point and re-engineered to be re-built. Special steel beams were used to support the new roof to enable it to coincide with the existing structure.
Once the roof was secured, the remaining work on phase one of Security Self Storage would be completed. And the Kotoches were determined to create a facility worth of praise—not unlike their Westlake, Ohio, location that was named Mini-Storage Messenger’s 2008 Overall Facility of the Year winner.
Being an upscale community, the Kotoches knew that Security Self Storage would need to be sleek to be well received in Solon. The site would be competing with a few facilities managed by CubeSmart as well. Therefore, they pulled out all the stops to provide the area’s affluent, professional clientele with top-of-the-line self-storage products, including a drive-through, climate-controlled storage and wine storage.
The drive-through area of the facility was designed to offer customers a safe and secure storage option that would enable them to stay warm and dry during the frigid, long winters of Northeast Ohio. What’s more, because the drive-through would utilize nearly 4,000 square feet of the project’s space, the Kotoches needed this portion of the facility to be both efficient and convenient to be able to charge premium rates for the drive-up units that are located on both sides of the 30-foot-wide driveway. These prime units, which are all climate-controlled, are available in two sizes: 10-by-20 and 12-by-22.
To exude an aura of cleanliness, the drive-through area uses ample lighting, epoxy floor coating, and white metal wall systems from Janus International—all of which were chosen to reflect light and make the space bright. The floor, which was finished in a light gray .60-mil-thick epoxy coating, is easy to clean and repels stains. The drive-through also features 20-foot-wide and 14-foot-tall doors that are full-length glass to allow semi or tractor-trailer moving trucks, as well as natural light, to easily enter the space. Additionally, the drive-through area is heated by radiant heat units that hang from the ceiling and all the storage units are sealed to prevent vehicle fumes and soot from permeating into the tenants’ spaces.
Speaking of lighting, the Kotoches decided that every unit at Security Self Storage should have lighting. Thus, they installed LED light fixtures in those units—all of which are controlled by motion sensors to conserve energy. The hallways also feature LED fixtures that are recessed within the tiles of the drop ceiling and operated by motion sensors.
In addition to lighting within the units, Security Self Storage has another comfort that most self-storage facilities don’t usually include: carpeting. The facility has marine blue carpeting throughout its hallways and within every storage unit. According to the Kotoches, the carpeting was an additional expense, but one that has enabled them to charge higher rates by “making people feel like they were storing in their own home. It is a warmer look and feel and gives people a comfort level that they are not in a warehouse.” Marine blue was chosen for the carpeting as well as the roll-up doors to pay homage to the facility’s high school home team, the Solon Comets.
To further cater to Solon’s residents, Security Self Storage was outfitted with a wine cellar that wows. Visible from the office through a glass wall, customers’ first glimpse of the wine storage area is its beautiful stone wall, walnut door, and a gold leaf engraved wooden header sign with the words “Wine Cellar” above the door. Customers can peak through the glass panel in the center of the walnut door to see custom-made wine cabinets that feature vent holes as well as black wrought iron grills. The wine storage bins can accommodate cases or bottles of wine thanks to their shelves and removeable wooden X dividers. For a relaxing ambience, the Kotoch family included low voltage lighting, bistro seating, an illuminated glass cabinet with wine items, and wine-themed paintings within the wine cellar. Ceramic floor tile and potted plants add to the space’s posh, fresh look.
In addition to the bistro seating within the wine cellar, there is a conference and wine tasting room next to the office area that can seat eight around an oblong table. A 60-inch flat-screen TV mounted on one wall and two custom workstations enable business renters to hold meetings. Tenants also have free use of Security Self Storage’s Wi-Fi, computer, copy machine, scanner, printer, and fax machine. Other office amenities include a coffee bar, with a sink and Keurig single-cup coffee machine, and a comfortable sitting area. There’s also a well-organized retail display area with a slat wall and a wide array of packing and moving supplies. However, the focal point of the office lobby is its 40-foot-long desk, which is adorned with an illuminated, glass-etched Security Self Storage logo and granite countertop. It has two workstations for customers to complete paperwork. A 55-inch flat-screen monitor behind this counter displays rotating information about the site, upcoming events, and community happenings, as well as details about the facility’s various business customers—a form of free advertising for those renting space at Security Self Storage. Although it has hardwood floors instead of carpet, the main office area’s color palette mimics the rest of the facility (marine blue, white, and gray).
Last but not least, Security Self Storage has a fully enclosed 1,500-square-foot loading bay adjacent to the office to reduce the distance customers must travel to their units. Similar to the drive-through area, the loading bay floor has a light gray epoxy coat with marine blue flakes as well as a 20-foot-wide, 14-foot-tall, full-length glass door. Hand carts are available to assist tenants with moving their belongings through the approximately 90,000-square-foot building.
As for the exterior, the Kotoches tamed the overgrown landscaping that shrouded the building from sight. They removed trees to enhance visibility, cleared out shabby vegetation, and repainted the red brick of the building a dark gray to match the rest of the site’s color scheme. An island of stone slabs, short shrubs/bushes, and other low-lying vegetation was added like a path through the plot to the corner of the facility. To incorporate the company’s trademark, they erected a two-story tower to the left of the office’s entrance. Similar to a lighthouse, the tower is equipped with LED lighting, but the colors can be changed to match the holiday.
As the Kotoches know, a site isn’t secure just because it has “security” in its name. For that reason, they were sure to include some of the latest and greatest technologies, as well as some unique security features, into the project. First of all, the manager’s office, which is off of the main office, has one-way security glass to provide the manager with clear views of the entrance and loading bay from their desk. Moreover, two monitors in the manager’s sitting area display footage from the facility’s 46 strategically placed digital IP cameras. The facility also utilizes “Door Boss” by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based PTI Security Systems. Door Boss is a smart locking and security mechanism installed on the door that communicates with tenants and the facility owner in the event of tampering. As tenants drive onto the property, Door Boss automatically opens their door latch and grants them access. This is accomplished through PTI’s Easy Code app and the site’s geo fencing, which work through customers’ smartphones to open loading bay doors and unit doors. Security Self Storage uses PTI’s Core software, enabling the owners to remotely monitor camera footage, access management data, and control the utilities.
The facility’s telephone system is an integral part of the security system, too, with an integrated intercom system. Tenants can use one of the site’s several intercoms to contact the office or the owners 24/7. For an additional layer of protection, the facility is outfitted with smoke detectors and an extensive sprinkler system that includes sprinkler heads in every unit.
Other security features can be found in the drive-through area and wine cellar. With 24-hour security lighting and a carbon monoxide detector, the drive-through portion of the facility can thwart criminals as well as noxious fumes. In the event that carbon monoxide is detected, four vents automatically open and two ventilators replace the drive-through air with fresh air from outside the building.
Within the wine cellar, each cabinet door has an alarm contact. The door to the wine cellar is armed as well, and a camera monitors the contents of the wine cellar at all times. To prevent the wine from being compromised, the wine cellar has a back-up generator to keep the temperature and humid levels constant in the event of a power outage.
Unmatched Marketing And Service
To create a buzz in Solon, the Kotoches hired Karen Kosek, owner of Taurean Edge Management LLC, to market Security Self Storage a year before its grand opening via direct mailings and their website, which included artist renderings of the facility as well as its services and amenities. Simultaneously, they utilized a call service to track the efficiency of their pay-per-click advertising and website.
Security Self Storage joined the local chamber of commerce to make contacts. Kosek, representing Security Self Storage, participated in breakfast and lunch meetings, business expos, golf outings, and car cruises to network and distribute information about the facility.
Local restaurants were contacted to secure leases. According to Norman Kotoch, Jr., Security Self Storage’s 18,000-square-foot warehouse, which is located behind the drive-through area, is popular with this segment of the facility’s commercial tenants. Two dozen restaurants store their outdoor furniture within this warehouse space, which created cash flow for the site during construction. Security Self Storage even provides free moving services to them, picking up their patio sets in the fall and delivering it to their establishment in the spring. Its two moving trucks are available for tenant use as well.
Initially, this warehouse space was going to become phase two of the project. However, as Kotoch, Sr., notes, its popularity has spread to include the storage of RVs, boats, and other vehicles. Therefore, in the spring, after the indoor units are filled, the Kotoches plan to add some larger outdoor units to the site.
As for services, Security Self Storage offers package acceptance for its tenants UPS and FedEx deliveries. And the staff prides itself on being available to serve customers 24 hours a day. They accommodate after-hour appointments and will even deliver paperwork to commercial customers who are too busy to leave work to sign leases. Certainly, with valet moving truck services available, along with automatic and online payment options, it’s easy and convenient for customers to become tenants at Security Self Storage.
Cornerstone Of The Community
Security Self Storage officially opened in June 2019. In seven short weeks, the first phase of 57,000 square feet of net rentable space was already 25 percent occupied (not including its 50-plus warehouse customers). In the end, what was once a prohibited business has become a successful self-storage facility that Solon’s commercial and residential customers alike have come to rely on for top-notch storage space.
Indeed, Security Self Storage, Mini-Storage Messenger’s 2019 New Facility of the Year winner, is a testament to the adage that the best things in life are worth the wait! Congratulations to the Kotoches and the development team that took it from concept to completion!
Facility Owner: Norman J. Kotoch, Constance M. Kotoch, Norman A. Kotoch
Builder: Millstone Management Group
Architect: HSB Architects
Management Software: SiteLink
Security System: PTI Security Systems
Doors/Hallways: Janus International Group
Security & Video Install: Access Control Technologies LLC
Erica Shatzer is the editor of Mini-Storage Messenger, Self-Storage Now!, and Self-Storage Canada.