Bluebird Self Storage, the Toronto-based subsidiary of Budget Development Partners, is expanding its Ontario footprint with the opening of 10 premium outlets in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Designed by Leonardo Romanese Architect Inc. and constructed by Maple Reinders, the “Class A” self-storage facilities are a mix of ground-up builds and conversions of existing buildings.
Four such locations have already opened in Mississauga, Woodbridge and Toronto. Pending are another six, in Vaughan, Whitby, Mississauga, Burlington and Toronto.
The list of upcoming projects includes the redevelopment of the former National Post offices on Don Mills Road.
“We believe there is tremendous runway available for Canadian self-storage development, especially and initially in the Greater Toronto Area and the Golden Horseshoe,” said Bluebird managing principal Reade DeCurtins.
As head of global acquisitions/branding, DeCurtins said in an interview that the expansion in the GTA is being driven in part by the fact that this market is under-served in supply of self-storage facilities.
Statistics indicate Canada has an estimated three square feet per capita in self-storage, compared to approximately nine square feet per person in the 25 largest markets in the United States.
The GTA, Canada’s most populous metropolitan area, is considered a prime market for expansion given its rapidly growing population approaching 6.5 million.
“There is a lack of supply in general and specifically, in Class A product,” said DeCurtins, who began his commercial real estate career in the U.S. specializing in retail site selection and land brokerage.
In 2004, he co-founded Landmark Development Partners which focused on building a portfolio of self-storage and retail mixed-use developments in the southeastern U.S.
We’re looking for the types of locations that someone passes on a daily basis
— Reade DeCurtins
Bluebird Self Storage
Two years later, DeCurtins joined forces with partner Jamie Bennett to continue developing self-storage under the Budget brand in the U.S. and later the Bluebird brand in Canada.
When it comes to the development of new facilities, close attention is paid to site selection, said DeCurtins, who commutes between offices in Toronto and Charlotte, N.C.
Bluebird favours readily accessible, retail-type locations — for example, in the same corridor as grocery or home improvement stores, rather than in isolated industrial parks or areas.
DeCurtins pointed to the example of a “ground-up” facility on Esandar Drive in Toronto’s Leaside neighbourhood that is located next to a Longo’s grocery store.
“We’re looking for the types of locations that someone passes on a daily basis, not something that they are going to have to seek out,” DeCurtins said.
“Our hope is that our locations are firmly implanted in someone’s mind.”
In developing its outlets, DeCurtins said Bluebird is “very much focused” on the image and appearance of its facilities, striving to create a more retail feel.
Emphasis is placed on modern architectural design, including a tower feature that is based on a birdhouse design. As well, architectural features tie in with specific areas or neighbourhoods.
The facilities are also designed to be female-friendly, incorporating such items as warm colours, reclaimed wood displays, natural-looking materials, bar tables and chairs and coffee stations, he added.
“In essence, we want to create a more appealing retail vibe rather than a cold, industrial warehouse-type of experience,” DeCurtins said.
In scouting potential locations for its properties, Bluebird seeks sites that can in one way or another accommodate 125,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet of space.
When it comes to converting existing industrial premises, the company looks for buildings with clear heights of 20 feet or more. This allows mezzanines to be constructed and square footage doubled.
In addition to developing new facilities, Bluebird is also focused on acquisition of existing self-storage facilities that are then “polished up,” rebranded and integrated into its management platform.
DeCurtins said third-party management of facilities owned by others is a third focus for 2019.