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Self-storage sites go upscale in competitive Hawaii market

February 20, 2007|From the Associated Press

HONOLULU — Even storing your stuff in Hawaii can be done in an upscale style, as the newest self-storage facilities resemble small resorts and hotels on some of the islands' most expensive real estate.

With 24-hour access, air-conditioned hallways and use of fancy business centers and wireless Internet, storage companies are catering to customers as the industry that is booming nationwide becomes more competitive.

A StorSecure Self-Storage outlet, designed to blend in with the lush green mountains, sits near the eastern shores of Oahu next to multimillion-dollar homes and expensive boats. Hawaii Self Storage recently spent $250,000 to install a clock tower and Hawaiian mosaics to overlook the island's busiest highway. And Public Storage has constructed a flashy facility on a high-rent downtown corner with space for retail shops to operate on the ground floor.

"We really wanted to become part of the neighborhood," said Annette Pang, vice president of marketing for Honolulu-based StorSecure. "The last thing we wanted to do was become an eyesore or diminish the value of these beautiful homes."

Self-storage is a booming $21-billion business nationwide that has nearly doubled the space for rent during the last decade, with 1 in every 11 households renting space in nearly 50,000 self-storage outlets -- including about 3,000 sites that opened last year.

The growth is easy to see on the space-scarce islands of Hawaii. As of March, there were 73 outlets, or 2.76 square feet of self-storage per person, well below the national average. But with eight recently built facilities and at least a dozen storage operations planned, Hawaii has outpaced national growth.

Once identified with ugly warehouse-like eyesores, storage companies now aim to meet community architectural standards as they pop up in prime residential areas and in the midst of busy retail complexes, said Mike Scanlon, president of the Virginia-based Self Storage Assn.

Regardless of the architecture, hidden inside the flashy exteriors are thousands of locked spaces -- in sizes from mailboxes to roomy garages.

They hold overflow inventory and files from local businesses, aging boxes and furniture saved after family deaths or divorce and collections of stuff too big to fit into cramped condos or tropical houses that often have no attics, basements or garages.

Hawaii is a great area for growth of self-storage businesses, with expensive homes and a plethora of new compact condos. Plus, many residents have kayaks, surfboards and other bulky watersports equipment.

Mostly because of high land costs, storage space in Hawaii rents for an average of $3 per square foot per month; nationally space averages less than a dollar.

People often confuse the new four-story, 120,000-square-foot StorSecure facility in Hawaii Kai with a hotel. Owners spent nearly half a year working with neighbors who had feared the building would downgrade the neighborhood, Pang said.

"We blend in, so we might lose some sales, but we feel our sacrifice is out gained by our satisfaction," Pang said.

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