Known as the “City of Innovation,” Irvine is where Public Storage wanted to push the limits. To think — and build — big.
And it did.
The last week of June, the company began welcoming customers into the second construction phase of the largest self-storage facility in Orange County, Calif., with nearly five times more rentable space than the national average. The final phase of the 3,000-plus-unit building will be added in late July.
Building in this area was a smart strategy to serve the growing population in Irvine and the surrounding cities, where storage options are very limited. But supersizing to create the second largest facility in the national company’s 2,311-location portfolio? Well, that happened a bit by chance. The best available site, execs explain, had a handsome preexisting structure that could be converted for storage.
And what a sweet spot it is — for a company that bases its success on being conveniently located near where customers live — just blocks from the 55, 405 and 5 freeways.
“We realized if we built it, the business would come,” said Vice President Bryan Miranda of the new project, Public Storage 16700 Red Hill Ave., Irvine, CA 92606.
After all, the area’s population has grown more than 20 percent in the last five years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and that pace is not expected to slow anytime soon. At least 5,000 apartments are under construction at the nearby former Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, and more houses are being built on smaller lots elsewhere in the area.
“Cities like Santa Ana are already dense and becoming more dense,” Miranda said. “There’s less space in new homes to store all the things people need. That’s why we’re here.”
Situated in an industrial neighborhood, the property also serves nearby Santa Ana, where 11,900 people live per square mile — the highest density of any city in Orange County, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
The facility also neighbors Tustin, a city with development restrictions in place that prohibit new storage facilities and even remodeling of old ones. And it provides storage for residents in greater south Orange County, where self-storage options are scarce due to the high cost of land and an unwillingness by local government to approve new storage construction in the largely residential area.
“We realized this was a community that could benefit from the business,” Miranda said. “It was our hope that we could provide an easily-accessible property for surrounding communities where residents have limited options.”
The average self-storage facility has approximately 57,000 square feet of rentable storage space, said Mike Blackett of the Self Storage Association. Public Storage’s rental space on Red Hill Avenue, in contrast, is 255,978 square feet, much larger to accommodate this need nearby.
The orange storage structure shines brightly like a Public Storage beacon and can be seen from blocks away. Nestled among several white, industrial properties, it is the brightest building in the surrounding area, by far.
“You can’t miss us,” agreed Bryan Paganetti, the senior regional manager who helps oversee the property.
The property sits on 10 acres of land and is eclipsed in size only by a building in The Bronx, New York City, which also caters to a growing, dense community with limited storage.
Due to its size, Red Hill has been a relatively ambitious project that will take roughly two years by the time it is completed. To serve customers during the full moving season this year, however, the company decided to do the construction in phases. The first units were available for rent at the end of April.
The second phase of just fewer than 1,000 more self-storage units opened the last week of June, and the final phase is scheduled for completion by the end of July.
Inside the completed corridors, the iconic orange aluminum doors shine at every turn, with help from motion-sensor LED lights, and a high-tech climate control system that moderates the temperature. Tenants recently remarked on the smell of “the newness” while moving a two-bedroom apartment into a bottom-floor unit.
Builders made the most of the space by adding roughly 275 lockers on top of regular-sized units on the first floor. The 5-by-4-foot lockers are half the height of regular storage units and are accessible only by a rolling staircase. They are less expensive and commonly serve college students — like the ones at the nearby University of California, Irvine, where more than 30,000 students attend.
This latest project is just one of many Public Storage has opened recently as it continues to expand to better serve its customers around the country, including in Orange County. So far the company opened 32 properties this year, including this one in Southern California, where Public Storage was founded in 1972.
This newest building looks different from the earliest properties, more like an office park, but the company’s commitment to Southern California and its goal to store keepsakes, and provide peace of mind, remains the same.