2018 Facility Of The Year
When a company purchases a self-storage facility with redevelopment in mind, the process typically doesn’t take very long. However, West Coast Beaverton Self Storage is an exception to the rule.
Factor in a small lot with easement issues and the worst recession since the Great Depression, and redevelopment plans for West Coast Beaverton Self Storage was a decade in the making.
The $4.8 redevelopment was worth the wait. The 37-year-old facility is now one of the premier self-storage facilities in town and rivals any new facility being built from the ground up.
The property expanded to 547 units with 52,380 square foot of rentable space. The facility also has an 800-square-foot modern office and retail space.
A Long And Storied History
West Coast Beaverton Self Storage is located at 9540 SW 125th Ave. in Beaverton, Ore. Originally built in 1980, Beaverton Self Storage was a first-generation self-storage facility with non-descript metal buildings and an outdated office with manager quarters.
The facility was already showing its age when West Coast Self Storage purchased the property in 2007 with the idea of refurbishing or redevelopment. West Coast Self Storage, which was founded in 2006 and is based in Washington State, currently manages 55 facilities, the majority in Washington State with the others located in Oregon and California.
“We acquired Beaverton initially for two reasons,” says Steve Tangney, vice president of real estate and a founding partner. “The price was right, and the property appeared to be inappropriately managed.”
Tangney describes the condition of the property then as “tired,” lacking in curb appeal, and showing signs of deferred maintenance.
The former owner, who had another full-time job and only worked the facility on the side, agreed to sell the 107-unit property. The facility was also built on a 12-foot structural grid and the units were non-standard size. “We put in a full-time manager, but the property was too small to justify the expense of having someone there full time, so we began working with the city, exploring redevelopment options,” says Tangney.
West Coast had a background in redevelopment and began exploring many options, including demolishing the entire site and starting over, as well as just demolishing the front half of the property and constructing a larger, more modern multi-story building. “We wanted to preserve some of the single-story buildings to the rear of the property, if possible,” says Tangney.
Tangney explains that complicating the effort was a slope of about six feet across the site, which meant new retaining walls and ramps had to be incorporated into the design. “That increased cost and reduced efficiency,” says Tangney.
Dan Vasquez, partner and senior architect with Mildren Design Group in Tigard, Ore., was on the job from the outset, trying to come up with a plan that would be feasible for the site. Mildren has been designing projects in the self-storage industry for the past dozen years.
“We tried to put the pieces together; it was like a jigsaw puzzle,” recalls Vasquez. “When we thought we’d come up with a solution, we just weren’t able to get the design to pencil.”
Tangney says they went through eight different site plans. “We thought the last one would work, but it had steep ramps,” says Tangney. “We applied to the city for entitlements, but, by that time, we found ourselves in the middle of the recession.”
That was in 2009; West Coast Self Storage put the project on hold and decided to wait out the recession. By that time, they had cleaned up the site significantly and put fresh coats of paint on the facility until they could come up with a better option.
The Missing Piece
In 2014, Tangney and his partner learned the adjacent property, a coin operated car wash, was going to be put up for sale. The car wash site was 0.6 acres and, combined with the Beaverton Self Storage property, would give them 1.6 acres total to redevelop the site.
“It would also increase our street frontage by 40 percent and improve our access to the site,” says Tangney.
The first hurdle West Coast had to overcome was the fact that the adjacent site wasn’t zoned the same as Beaverton Self Storage, and self-storage wasn’t an allowed use. “After some initial discussions with city staff, we felt the rezone and entitlement effort was worth the risk,” says Tangney.
The luck of obtaining the adjacent property at a fair price was still with West Coast; they obtained the property for $375,000. “We made our offer and were able to negotiate a purchase contract with the car wash owner that was subject to obtaining city entitlements,” says Tangney.
Then the real work began.
Vasquez and the civil engineer at TM Rippey Consulting Engineers in Portland, Ore., began work again on what would eventually be a half-dozen more site plans. In the meantime, an eight-month process began with the city to obtain zoning, a conditional use permit and parking variance (self-storage typically doesn’t require the amount of parking as other developments). “There was no conflict, but it was a long process with design review and all of the rest,” says Tangney.
The design that finally worked for the site is a two-story/three-story split level that can be accessed from either the first or second floors. There is one ramp, and the main entry has a covered loading bay.
On the other side, higher up on the grade, there is a loading bay to the second floor for easy access. There are two elevators that serve all three floors.
The area around the self-storage facility is mostly multi-family with pitched roof designs. “We needed the facility to blend in with the pitched roofs for design review,” says Tangney. “The architectural design fits in well with the pitched roof theme.”
Vasquez says the civil engineer had a large role in this project. “They played a big part in getting grades to work and blend in the existing grades,” says Vasquez. “We also had to blend in the design with the surrounding residential area while maintaining some characteristics of self-storage.”
The design not only used similar pitched roofing, but Vasquez incorporated smaller windows into the plan in a nod to the surrounding residential. The roof was designed with the signature blue of West Coast Self Storage, and the pre-finished metal panels were mixed up with a variation of complimentary colors.
“Some were also run horizontally and some vertically,” says Vasquez. “We met with the city to talk all of this through, and it was really a coordinated effort between our team and the city. They felt it reflected the quality and durability of the project.”
Vasquez, who has a lot of experience in designing self-storage, feels these types of high-quality projects are necessary in order to continue to change perceptions of what people may think of self-storage. “My favorite part of this project was our client’s OK to take some liberties with the design and including us in all of the meetings with the city, which allowed for clear direction and open communication,” says Vasquez. “We were able to explore and come up with something unique and meet both the city and client’s standards. It goes with clients realizing in order to put facilities in neighborhoods, we sometimes have to go the extra mile to make it work.”
The bright blue roofs weren’t in character with the neighborhood, but Vasquez says the city was on board with the color choice. “It’s something done thoughtfully and true to West Coast Self Storage,” explains Vasquez. “The city realized it was worth it to do something a little different.”
The plan also allowed the facility to leave about 50 additional units in three of the original buildings, while demolishing the original office and manager quarters (which was not replaced).
Typical Construction Process
Construction began in May 2016 with the demolition of the car wash next door, as well as preparing the storage facility site for the new building.
In this process, all the tenants at Beaverton Self Storage were moved to other West Coast Self Storage facilities. This was a delicate process; the store manager, Jamie Bouzan, who had been at the Beaverton facility for several years, handled the transfers.
Once the process began, Tangney says they found another glitch in the plan. A neighboring convenience store modified the easement to ensure the store was visible from the road once the car wash and the self-storage facility was originally constructed. “We had to contact the new owner of the convenience store to request the old easement be modified,” says Tangney. “We expected it would be an easy thing to agree to, but she contacted an attorney.”
The attorney then requested $50,000 from West Coast to modify the easement. “That was a surprise,” says Tangney. “It’s always important to do due diligence to make sure everyone knows all of the easement that affect the property.”
Tangney says they were able to negotiate the fee down to $25,000, but that added construction expense not originally in the budget.
SEA CON LLC, in Issaquah, Wash., was the general contractor on the project. The company has worked on at least 50 self-storage projects in Washington, Oregon, and Arizona. They previously had performed work for West Coast Self Storage, and they are currently working on a project for them in Seattle.
“It’s always a challenge working on an existing facility, as you don’t know what you’re dealing with when you have existing buildings,” says Robert Power, vice president of SEA CON. “Controlling site access is a big issue on such projects.”
According to Tangney there weren’t any surprises once dirt was moved on the site except a minor issue with a utility line. “It wasn’t disruptive,” he says.
MAKO Steel in Carlsbad, Calif., which works extensively in self-storage and has worked on previous projects with West Coast throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Oregon, Washington, and California, provided the metal structures and roofing.
Caesar Wright, president of MAKO Steel, says the Beaverton facility was pretty straightforward with regards to remodeling the three-existing building to the back of the property. Those buildings received new roofing and trim. “Those existing buildings were a very quick and easy process,” says Wright.
All the metal for the project was manufactured by McElroy Metal. Wright really enjoyed this project as his company was also involved from the beginning, which allowed them to give input during the process.
Most of the challenges came with the onset of winter. “In the Northwest, you always have weather issues,” says Tangney. “We lost a week with snow, which is somewhat to be expected in the winter.”
Wright adds that it’s very important when doing construction in the winter to make sure all the job site prep work is done before winter. “It’s important to get asphalt down and other site prep as it could slow your project down,” says Wright.
Beaverton ran into construction delays, but most of that was due to the current reality of getting sub-contractors and materials on time. “All projects today take longer than expected because everyone is busy,” says Tangney. “You can’t get materials and crews to perform like you did during the recession when there were just so many to be happy to have a job. These days, if you need a contractor, you call them two weeks early and hope they don’t show up two weeks late.”
The project was forecasted to last 11 months but took 13.
Once the new buildings were constructed, Janus International in Mission Viejo, Calif., installed the doors and hallway systems. “We replaced the roll-up doors on the old buildings, which were almost non-functional,” says Jeff Higashi, president of the western division for Janus.
The new building also has cylinder lock doors in the bright West Coast Self Storage blue.
Vasquez says MKE & Associates in Portland, Ore., was responsible for the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing. “They worked with the engineers to use proper LED lighting fixtures, which are beneficial to energy savings,” explains Vasquez. “We wanted to keep them as efficiently designed as possible with the latest technology.”
Stor-Guard, LLC, in Kent, Wash., installed the security system, which included 34 cameras throughout the facility. There is an access control system at the entry and exit with a keypad at the front door and at the elevator to restrict access to each floor. “Security is always a top priority at WCSS; they take the time to review the project’s challenges and circumstances,” says John Wollam, president of Stor-Guard.
The Cherry On Top
After West Coast received entitlements on the property, but before construction began, a cell phone company approached them proposing to place a cell tower on the property. “We didn’t need the cell tower to make the project pencil, but it certainly was the cherry on top,” says Tangney. “It wasn’t a big deal; we were committed to the project anyway. The full lease for land is a little over $2,000 per month.”
The two parties negotiated the lease rate of the land, as well as two permanent leases on 10-by-10 units the cell tower company uses for its equipment. The cell tower company even handled the conditional use permit from the city.
The cell tower company is not a cell phone company, so it sells use of the tower to carriers. The lease it negotiated with West Coast included two tiers, one for each of the carriers that are allowed on the tower. The company now has two carriers and is paying the full lease amount, which adds to the ancillary income.
By the time West Coast Beaverton Self Storage re-opened in June 2017, there was already significant buzz in the community, says John Eisenbarth, vice president of operations for West Coast Self Storage. “We reached out to all of the community schools, churches, apartments, and surrounding businesses,” he says.
One of the keys was the ability to retain Bouzan, who provided consistency with knowledge of the store and surrounding target market.
While some efforts focused on gaining new customers, Bouzan also focused on getting the tenants back who were moved during construction. “It’s a testament to Jamie’s incredible work when we closed down how well he did that with care,” says Aaron Potter, district manager. “Many of those people came back.”
The Beaverton facility is currently 80 percent occupied, and Eisenbarth is confident they will reach their goal of 85 percent by the end of 2018, or shortly thereafter. “Kudos goes to all of our marketing department for using all of our available resources to effectively market the property,” says Eisenbarth.
Facility Owner: West Coast Self Storage
Builder: Seacon LLC
Architect: Mildren Design Group, P.C.
Accounting System / Management Software: storEDGE
Security System: Storeguard, LLC
Metal Structure / Roof: Mako Steel
Hallways / Doors: Janus International
Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell is a freelance journalist based in the Ozark Mountains. She is a regular contributor to MiniCo’s publications. Her business articles have also appeared in Entrepreneur, Aol.com, MSN.com, and The Kansas City Star.