Wed, Feb 21, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Even self-storage units in Hawaii have a great view

LOCATION, LOCATION With one in 11 US households renting space in self-storage outlets, the vigorous sector is blending in well in Hawaii while raking in the money

AP , HONOLULU

A StoreSecure outlet with a view of lush green mountains in eastern Oahu is seen on Feb. 2 in Hawaii Kai, Hawaii.

PHOTO: AP

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' priciest real estate.

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

A StorSecure 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 US$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 US$21 billion business in the US that has nearly doubled the space-for-rent during the past decade, with one in every 11 households renting space in nearly 50,000 self-storage outlets nationwide -- including about 3,000 new 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 0.25m2 of self-storage per person, well below the national average. But with eight recently built facilities and at least another dozen storage operations planned, the rapid growth of these facilities in Hawaii has outpaced the national growth.

Once identified with ugly warehouse-like eyesores, storage companies are now designed 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 Association.

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, stacks of aging boxes and furniture saved from 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 nearly no residential basements, expensive homes and a plethora of new compact condos. Plus, many residents have kayaks, canoes, surfboards and other tough-to-store watersports equipment.

Mostly because of high land costs, storage space in Hawaii rents for an average of US$3 per square foot (0.09m2), while nationally space averages less than US$1.

In Hawaii Kai, a seaside district in eastern Oahu where multimillion dollar homes wrap around the marina, a new tan and green StorSecure Self-Storage facility blends in with its surroundings.

People often confuse the new four-story facility with a hotel. Owners spent nearly half a year working with neighbors who had feared the building would downgrade the neighborhood, Pang said.

Now outside lights dim at night to accommodate the turtles dwelling in the marina.

With more competition in Honolulu, the newest facilities have introduced 24-hour access, dehumidification technology to prevent mold and mildew and advanced security systems. Many operations also hold incoming shipments for customers -- a major incentive for businesses.

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