ITHACA, N.Y. — When asked about all the new storage facilities going up in Dryden, Ray Burger, the town's planning director, let out a hearty laugh. "I wish I knew! It’s my favorite topic."
They're hard to miss driving around town. There's Storage Squad, constructing a three-building, 46,800 square-foot facility at 1401 Dryden Road. Right across the street is 4 Season Storage, which just doubled its capacity with a second building. Then there's Ideal Storage, which is building a new 10,500 square-foot facility on the corner of Enterprise Drive and Freeville Road, just outside Dryden village.
Dryden seems to be the epicenter of the storage space boom, but Lansing has had some interest as well, with a 1,600 SF expansion of Airport Storage on Hillcrest Lane, and a planned 9,600 SF expansion of United Storage on Verizon Lane.
It sounds a bit strange to say that storage facilities are hot right now. But, it is what it is.
So, what's driving the interest? Burger had a couple of speculative ideas. "From what I’ve heard, our community is under-served by self-storage, we’re not keeping up with neighboring counties and states. That’s the word on the street, and that may be the whole explanation. With Tiny Timbers, and downsizing for smaller housing, maybe this is a corollary cost of that."
With that in mind, we reached out to some of the local storage space developers to see what the fuss was about.
"In today’s world, people need storage for their personal belongings since it is less expensive to rent a storage unit than pay for a larger apartment or home with the associated property taxes," said Michael Moore, owner of 4 Season Storage.
"Many of the items people are storing are sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, so they are looking for a newer facility in a convenient location that offers climate-controlled storage - heated, air-conditioned and humidity controlled, in order to protect items that they might not have room for in their home."
Nick Huber, President of Storage Squad, had a similar take. "Tompkins County has generally been left behind over the past 20 years as the storage industry has made some great advances. Most areas of the state have made the transition to climate controlled facilities. With today's technology, these are not really that much more expensive to build or run so it is becoming the industry standard and a service customers expect. It's nearly impossible to find a vacant climate controlled unit within 45 minutes of Ithaca. This leaves a lot of people settling for standard storage spaces and leaving their valuables to the whims of mother nature because they have no other option. In an area with weather like ours, that is not a feasible solution."
So, Burger's theory checks out - the boom in self-storage appears to be an offshoot of local trends towards smaller living spaces, and the proliferation of climate-controlled facilities that do a better job at protecting people's stuff. Now onto question two — why Dryden?
According to Moore, when he was looking to purchase a building site, Dryden met all of his criteria. "There are many factors to consider. The property should be on a major highway with a high traffic count. It should be close to a number of populated areas for convenience of potential customers. It needs to be zoned correctly for a storage facility. It needs to have room for expansion, and competition for self-storage in the specific area should be within reasonable parameters."
"A lot of the self storage businesses under construction now are targeting the Ithaca population. Ithaca doesn't have many areas left with the correct zoning for light industry and warehousing. That is why Storage Squad and also 4-Season have targeted the Route 13 corridor between Ithaca and Dryden," said Huber. He mentioned that Storage Squad is in the early stages for a Cortland location.
In sum, Dryden has a sort of "Goldilocks effect" for self storage purveyors - right zoning, right location, right price. Close enough to be convenient for Ithacans and the colleges, but far enough out that the land prices are more affordable, offering plenty of space to house the belongings of others. The storage facilities aren't big job generators, but they aren't big traffic generators either.
For what it's worth, Burger doesn't seem to mind. "Our community is great for many things, we’re an attractive location between Ithaca, Cortland, Elmira, and we’re near the universities. It’s just an ideal location."