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Q&A With Melissa Anderson

Melissa Anderson is a dedicated resource to those looking to build enclosed RV and boat storage. Working in the construction Industry over the past 20 years, and as an account executive for Forge Building Company, she provides insight throughout the entirety of the building process. With an astute understanding of the self-storage industry, she actively contributes to the success of any type of self-storage project. Toy Storage Nation pinned down Melissa to provide insights into developing and building toy storage facilities, an area of her great expertise. 

Can you give us a little background information about yourself as it relates to the storage and/or building industry?

I have been fully submerged in the self-storage industry for over 18 months working as an account executive with Forge Building Company.  During this time, I’ve learned an incredible amount about the self-storage industry from the co-founders of the company, Hayden Farrell and Hamish Bell. I’ve been in the construction industry most of my career and it’s great to have my experience pair so well with the building of self-storage. 

From your building perspective, does Forge get more inquiries about adding RV and boat storage to an existing self-storage facility, or do you have more inquiries from developers seeking to build a property fully devoted to toy storage? 

In my experience, it is rare that we get people looking to develop an entire site dedicated to Toy Storage; however, it does happen.  It is the most common to have somebody reach out that is looking to develop a facility that includes Toy Storage in one capacity or another.  This could involve one type of Toy Storage or a mix of different types.  Also, there are some that want to expand an existing facility to include Toy Storage; however, many times the amount of land they have is limited.  When a space is too small the NRSF is limited, and it’s hard to make the cost of construction pencil out.

Does it make better sense from a financial perspective to purchase an existing self-storage facility and renovate/expand it to include toy storage, or start from scratch and build from the ground up?

This really needs to be evaluated deal by deal; however, having a site that is cash flow positive at closing and there is room to expand is quite ideal.  From what I have heard from others, banks are more inclined to finance the construction of an expansion against the already operating facility.  However, I’ve worked with many investors who’ve grown tired of looking for that “unicorn” of a deal.  So, they pivot.  They decide that if they are going to have a facility, they are going to build it from the ground up and they search for a parcel that meets their needs and is in the right price range.

Are you finding that developers are coming into this niche with an understanding of the design differences between self-storage and RV/boat/toy storage, or does Forge have to educate them on the distinguishing factors? 

Many investors or developers I work with are fairly new to self-storage.  So, I provide quite a bit of information to help them as they are getting started in this industry.  At Forge, we take the time to meet people exactly where they are on their journey.  We’ll share with them the next steps, provide resources to them, and even direct them to the right people in the industry. When a developer or investor is looking at Toy Storage, we will explain the differences as it pertains to traditional storage and the additional factors that must be considered when designing a site layout.

What are some tips for a developer to consider during land acquisition, if they intend on building Toy Storage?

1)      Ensure that Boat/RV Storage is an acceptable use of the land use for the parcel.  Don’t make assumptions merely based on what the property is zoned (e.g., Commercial / Business / Light Industrial).

2)      Get a Land Survey.  It’s important to know if there are easements that minimize the amount of land you can develop.

3)      Look for a property that is close to new neighborhoods being developed. Most HOAs have strict rules on storing RVs and boats.

4)      Keep the size of the parcel in mind.  Drive aisles take up a lot of space.  Look for a piece of property that is no smaller than 5 acres.

5)      Talk to a consultant and get a Market Feasibility Study.  Learn what the demand is for Toy Storage in that market.

6)      Design a Site Layout.  It’s important to know just “How Much NFSF” you can build on the property.

What are the biggest stumbling blocks during the Project Approval Process with a municipality? Are there any shortcuts you can offer to help circumnavigate these more quickly?

One of the biggest obstacles I see developers running into is that Boat/RV Storage is not an acceptable use of the land as it is currently zoned.  In many cases, there may be an option to file for a Conditional Use Permit or a Special Use Permit that will give permission for this type of use.  Depending on the process and the attitude those who have authority have about storage, this could be an easy win or one that takes quite a bit of work.  In some cases, the municipality will approve the project with contingencies regarding the design.  That is, they may require specific types of materials to be used on the façade to elevate the aesthetics of the facility.   I recommend starting these discussions during the Due Diligence Period of Land Acquisition.  This will help get in front of any opposition that there may be to a project and, if it seems like it is a “no-win” situation, then walking away from the purchase of the land is an option.  Also, bring in an architect to help with this entitlement process.  A good architect knows how to navigate these situations and will bring great wisdom to the table.

What’s your favorite thing about working in this industry? 

One of my favorite things is working with people who are new to the industry.  I love helping them on their journey and being a resource to them as they are working out all the details of their development.  It is exciting to see all the pieces come together and assist them to the finish line of starting to rent out their units. 

Founded in 2007 and headquartered in Boise, Idaho, Forge Building Company was created after its founders spent decades working in the steel-structure industry. Using their expertise in storage and focusing on the three pillars of buildings, designing and erecting, they led the company to a more diverse portfolio and stronger relations across the United States. Today, the company offers steel buildings for self-storage, RV and boat storage, car washes, airplane hangars, large warehouses, fish hatcheries and craft breweries/restaurants. Other offerings include pre-engineered metal buildings for industrial and commercial applications. With a strong portfolio of partners and clients, the Forge team has completed over 500 jobs, built over 50 million square feet, has over 200 employees and remains privately owned. For more information, visit Forge Building Systems.

Stake Your Claim in Toy Storage Learn more about all aspects of developing and operating a successful RV and boat storage facility at the upcoming Toy Storage Nation Executive Workshop, June 16, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, where Melissa will lead a presentation on enclosed construction for toy storage, answering some important questions such as: What are the benefits of enclosed RV and boat storage? How can developments obstacles in the process of planning and zoning?  What drives decisions when designing a toy storage facility? Limited seats are available for this one-day accelerated, intensive workshop, led by the industry’s most experienced professionals. Learn more and REGISTER NOW

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