MOUNT GREENWOOD — A crowd of about 40 Mount Greenwood residents seemed to warm to the idea of a proposed self-storage facility on Tuesday night.
Gary Delaney, president of Banner Storage Group LLC, laid out plans for the business that would sit on the northeast corner of 111th Street and Harding Avenue. The two-story facility would replace the vacant lot formerly operated as St. Casmir Memorials.
"We want to be part of the community," said Delaney, addressing the crowd at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences.
Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) opened the meeting by saying he'd prefer another user, like a restaurant or a sought-after retailer. However, O'Shea said the only other developers that have ever shown interest in the property have all wanted to build apartments or condominiums — an idea the Southwest Side alderman is strongly against.
"Personally, I don't feel self storage adds to our commercial strip," O'Shea said. "But ultimately, the decision needs to come from all of you."
O'Shea said he's willing to keep the lot vacant and hold out for a better user if residents so desire. But he warned no such user is on the horizon, and he's willing to give Delaney an opportunity to present his case.
If approved, the storage facility would operate under the banner of Extra Space Storage. Construction of the 600-unit facility would take about a year and cost roughly $9 million, Delaney said.
The developer said most of his customers are women who have recently been through a major life event, such as a student returning home from college, a death in the family or a divorce.
On average, customers rent a storage unit for 15 months and visit the facility every four months while renting. Each visit lasts about 20 minutes, and the typical unit is 65 square feet, Delaney said.
One of the biggest concerns among residents was the additional parking required for the new facility. But Delaney said he's never seen more than 20 people visit one of his storage facilities in a single day. About 15 customers visit on an average day.
"Self-storage facilities are about the lowest traffic generators than any other commercial site," Delaney said.
He added that all the loading and unloading will be done inside the building. Customers arrive, enter a security code for an overhead door and pull into the building to bring items into their storage unit or take things away.
The conceptual drawings of the building had this door facing Harding Avenue, but Delaney said the door could also face 111th Street if that was more desirable to residents. The indoor loading area can fit up to six vehicles, though it's rarely at capacity, Delaney said.
He started the discussion with the idea of sharing his new storefront with a retailer like a coffee shop or some other small business. But residents quickly dismissed the idea over parking concerns. Delaney was receptive, saying he'd instead use the space considered for retail to simply offer more storage.
The storage facility would be open from about 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The business would be closed on Sunday and would have two employees at the start. As the business becomes established, the operators would likely transition down to one employee.
Delaney said his demographic studies make him confident that his business will succeed. He said 22,000 people live within one mile of the proposed facility and about 85 percent of his customers will come from within two miles of the building.
He also said the business would be a boon to the tax base. The vacant property generates about $18,000 in property taxes as it stands. That would jump to $300,000 if the storage facility was built.
No tax incentives will be used for the deal, and the builders would be required to use union labor, O'Shea said.
Not everyone was encouraged by the proposal on Tuesday evening. Several residents raised their hands to say they were openly opposed to the idea.
Surveying the crowd, O'Shea said he felt the audience was mostly split on the proposal. He plans to have another meeting and more discussions with residents before ultimately deciding on the proposal.
Browning Mitchell of Mount Greenwood lives two blocks away from the would-be business. He said he arrived at the meeting on Tuesday night with an open mind.
"To me it's a good use of the land," said Mitchell as he left the meeting.
Kelly Jaros lives immediately north of the storage facility with her husband, Todd. She had concerns about traffic but was otherwise encouraged by the drawings of the building presented on Tuesday night.
"I'd rather see something go in there than an empty lot," Jaros said.
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