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Florida Council Denies U-Haul, Approves ExtraSpace for Vacant Kmart

By Aimee Hancock

Redevelopment of the long-vacant former location of Kmart in Englewood, Fla., is underway and the facility will soon operate as a self-storage facility. The storage facility will be owned and operated by the business Extra Space Storage.

Preliminary construction work has begun, including demolition of the parking lot and some interior clean-up work, according to Community and Economic Development Director William Singer, who added that necessary permits are under review.

Late last year, the developer proposed the retrofitting of the existing 84,000-square-foot building into self-storage units. The project will include storage units with indoor accessibility, as well as an outdoor area designated for boat and RV storage.

Planning commission in November approved a rezoning of the site, from community commercial district to planned unit development district, and the project was subsequently approved by council. Proposed changes to the site include the elimination of excess parking at the north end of the site, along National Road, to create three out-parcel lots for future development.

Building changes include removal of the existing Kmart entrance structure and replacement with a new entrance façade. Management offices will be constructed adjacent to the main entry and the remainder of the facility will be used for self-storage units.

The existing overhead doors at the former Kmart auto center will be painted green and used for drive-up storage. New black vinyl-coated chain link fence with privacy slats will be constructed at the former Kmart garden center, which will be used for the boat and RV storage.

The facility will include secured keypad access and will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., every day. Staffed hours will be from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., Monday through Friday.

The vacant Kmart building was originally constructed in the early 1970s when National Road was the focus of development in Englewood, city documents show. The store officially closed in July 2016 and the building has been vacant ever since. Due to financial strain, the nationwide retailer has shuttered the vast majority of its stores, with the last Dayton-area location closing in 2017.

In 2021, Englewood City Council voted 4-2 to deny a similar rezoning request that would have allowed for the property to be redeveloped into an indoor/outdoor self-storage unit by U-Haul. Councilman Michael Kline said at the time that city residents had previously complained about U-Haul trucks parked in lots around the city.

The planning commission had requested that U-Haul remove outside storage, reduce the number of trucks to no more than six trucks lining the greenspace on West National Road, define travel lanes, input a privacy fence between building and residential properties, move shunting area, no lighting beyond property limits that could disturb residents, complete access assessments, and several others.

U-Haul only agreed to change the shunting lanes, reduce the number of trucks and add more landscaping. “We voted against it because we know that U-Haul doesn’t agree with many of the crucial points that are in section two,” said planning commission president Thomas Sorna after the denial in February 2021.

Singer said Wednesday that the biggest difference between the denied project and current redevelopment plans is how the exterior space of the property will be used, as some residents, business owners and city officials had expressed concern that the U-Haul facility would create an eye sore.

“The approved plan by Extra Space Storage includes additional green space, improved landscaping, and indoor storage units, (while) the proposal by U-Haul included truck rentals, outdoor storage of portable units, and additional permanent storage units in the parking lot,” he said. “The approved proposal will produce a more visually appealing property.”

Aimee Hancock is a staff reporter for the Dayton Daily News in Florida.

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