First in the state Construction of StorageMart starts on Flanagan Way

StorageMart, a new concept in self-storage facilities and the first of its kind in the state, started construction this week.

Chris Burnam, one of the two brothers who owns the Missouri-based Company, said the 139,000 square foot facility will likely open for business in May.

“What we tried to do is create a super storage facility,” Burnam said last week. “When Wal-Mart started business, they brought to the public a high quality, variety of goods at a low cost. We have a similar concept.”

The building – which received approval for seven variances from the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission in September, will be located on the site for the Former Cambria Mack building on Flanagan Way.

The variances were required because the property was not zoned to accommodate self-storage facilities. The project will also include a truck rental facility and a retail store as well as the storage facility.

The 36-foot tall building with its 45-foot clock tower also needed a variance because it exceeds the zoning height limit of 35 feet. The front entrance to the facility, which saddles property with Route 3 on the north and Flanagan Way on the south, will be located on the highway side to avoid the noise and traffic that might otherwise go through a residential neighborhood.

Although Secaucus has at least four other existing storage facilities, Burnam said StorageMart is something different.

“It’s all climate controlled, high security self-storage,” Burnam said during a telephone interview this week. “In addition, it will have a retail store. We’re offering a kind of self-contained moving center where people can get everything they need to move, from boxes to organizers.”

StorageMart will provide numerous Rubbermaid products as well as other office-related products, and also provides a mailbox center where people or businesses might get their mail during the transition.

“You will be able to get your mail there as well as ship things out,” Burnam said. “We will have services that will allow you to ship U.S. Mail or UPS. You can send or receive faxes. You can even make copies.”

The facility will also be a U-Haul rental service.

“Our target customers are those in business branch offices that may be expanding or moving,” he said. “We see our service as support office while they are in transition.”

Burnam said StorageMart is also seeking to attract homeowners who are getting ready to move and need a variety of supplies and containers.

“We’re trying to be a one-stop shop for the transition in their lives,” he said.

StorageMart also provides a climate-controlled atmosphere for the long-term storage of higher quality goods, such as artwork and expensive furniture.

In getting their approvals from the HMDC, Burnam’s designers claimed the project would have little or no impact on the residential neighborhood along Flanagan way, and that even the garage doors would not be visible from the residential side of the property.

“This is a big plus for that neighborhood especially, considering over the last three to six year the kind of businesses that have been looking at that property,” said Town Administrator Anthony Iacono. “We know that a fast food restaurant, a bank, a strip mall – including a CVS drug store were all being considered for that site.” Iacono said zoning allows numerous uses that could have posed a disturbance to the neighborhood including multi-storied medical or office buildings.

“Think about type of traffic and noise that might have been caused by one of those, then think about what we will have there,” Iacono said. “The self-storage will have little traffic and no noise, and will not only provide a needed ratable to the town, but will help enhance property values in the area.”

How StorageMart is different

StorageMart evolved out of a family-owned business called Storage Trust Realty, which was developed by Gordon Burnam in 1974 and became the fourth largest self-storage company in the county. The family sold off that business last year.

According to market analysis of the new business, StorageMart takes a different approach based on some of the lessons learned from the Storage Trust. It focuses on new site development, self-storage and property conversions that can be resold in packaged deals when the values peak.

“We wanted to do something that was unique,” Burnam said. “We wanted to find the next generations of storage facilities. In the past, what you had with storage facilities were little houses with an office. That’s still the public perception. We’re bringing a whole different product to the market.”

The interiors will be carpeted, and the building will be alarmed. The storage areas will be watched through a sophisticated video system and will be heated in winter and air conditioned in the summer.

“We understood that if you put grandma’s piano in a traditional storage facility, it was going to freeze and thaw and will be subject to high heat and humidity,” Burnam said. “This will cause damage.”

Burnam acknowledges the fact that his facility will cost more than traditional storage facilities.

“Usually our prices are 10 to 20 percent higher than conventional storage facilities,” he said. “If you pay $90 in a conventional facility, you’ll pay $100 to $105 in ours.”

In selecting Secaucus as a site for the facility, Burnam said he was looking for something with prominent visibility.

“To use us people first have to find us,” he said. “When we look at each new market, we look to see what kind of competition we have and how easily people can find us.”

A study of Secaucus area showed current storage facilities were near capacity and that the property located on the side of Route 3 East gave StorageMart access to traffic going in and out of Manhattan.

“That’s a tremendous advantage over our competition,” he said. “We also noticed that most of the existing facilities are old and not terribly well-kept. We liked the competitive advantage.”

Burnam estimated that about 50 percent of his business would come out of Manhattan’s small businesses, such as janitorial services, that need a place to keep their equipment without the high cost of storage in New York City.

Started out small

In 1972, long before anyone in Secaucus ever heard of him, Gordon Burnam was driving around on a rainy day in Texas when he noticed a mini-warehouse self-storage facility on the side of the road. A man who had already made a fortune in real estate over the years, Burnam had a vision. Seeing the changing ways Americans lived, Burnam sensed restlessness in Americans after the 1960s. He saw a need for facilities that would store people’s possessions safe as they moved from place to place.

“My father was into single family home building,” Chris Burnam said. “Because winters in Missouri were cold, my family took vacations then. We went to Brownsville Texas. I was about 12 years old and it rained the whole week. My father drove around and saw a self-storage place on the side of the road. After talking with my father for a while, the man said he would let my father have it for a $10 lease.”

Gordon Burnam turned that business into the Storage Trust Realty company, a mini-warehouse business that blossomed into the fourth largest publicly traded storage company in the country.

“When we sold Storage Trust, my brother and I suddenly found ourselves without a job,” Chris Burnam said. “So we started StorageMart.”


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