U-Haul plans to open Santa Fe’s largest indoor, climate-controlled self-storage facility in November next to the new Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q.
The three-story U-Haul Moving & Storage of Santa Fe, 7295 Cerrillos Road, will have 811 storage units and, for now, will be U-Haul’s second-largest storage facility in New Mexico, said Danny Porras, U-Haul’s president for Northern New Mexico.
This is U-Haul’s first company-owned moving and storage center in Santa Fe. The other U-Haul sites here are contract operations.
U-Haul has sought to open a Santa Fe center for 20 years and acquired the former Rio Grande Landscaping property in December 2019 with intentions to start construction in 2020. Construction ultimately did not start until May 2021 amid pandemic disruptions and was slowed by the common pandemic-era labor and material shortages, Porras said.
The 103,413-square-foot structure will have 215 non-climate-controlled units in the basement, but all the other units are climate-controlled. The facility has key-card access, and each unit is individually alarmed, Porras said.
Tenants supply their own locks, but high-security disc locks must be used. Padlocks will not be accepted, he said.
U-Haul will have 5-by-5, 5-by-10, 10-by-10 and 10-by-15-foot units. Rental rates will be determined closer to opening day, he said.
“We will be taking names and numbers some time in October,” said Porras, who became U-Haul’s Northern New Mexico president before Memorial Day after 25 years with U-Haul.
U-Haul is in the design phase of a second, roughly 16,000-square-foot structure to house up to 1,000 portable U-Box storage units, Porras said.
Porras said U-Haul did not stray from the original features and plan from 2019 — other than substantially increasing the U-Box building — even with drastic changes in the storage world.
The pandemic has spawned an immense work-at-home dynamic, with rooms being converted into offices. People have been downsizing into smaller homes. Adult children are moving back home with soaring housing prices. People are moving at a relentless pace to more appealing places — such as Santa Fe.
“Where do you put the rest of your stuff when you downsize from 3,000 square feet to 1,200 square feet?” Porras said.
Porras also expects hefty business use at U-Haul.
“We do a lot of file storage for legal people,” he said about other U-Haul centers. “We already talked to people who are commuting from Albuquerque. They want to leave larger items in storage.”
Porras does not believe Santa Fe is saturated with self-storage, noting many of his competitors have a limited number of climate-controlled units.
“We’ll have the largest climate-control facility in Santa Fe,” he said.
About one-third of Santa Fe storage is now climate controlled, said Forrest Thomas, owner Santa Fe Self Storage and a board member at the New Mexico Self Storage Association. Santa Fe has 70 self-storage facilities with about 16,500 units, amounting to about 1.65 million square feet, Thomas said.
“I am pretty surprised that Santa Fe has absorbed the growth in the last few years,” said Thomas, who owns three storage facilities in Santa Fe with 1,150 units and two others in Albuquerque and Roswell. “[Santa Fe storage operators] have added an additional 40 percent, 400,000 square feet, in the last five years. I thought that would push us to the tipping point. I thought we would have already hit the saturation point. The one thing that is moving the goal posts is the welcome addition of housing options becoming available.”
The new Santa Fe storage facility is currently U-Haul’s second-largest in New Mexico, behind the one at Coors Boulevard and Interstate 40 in Albuquerque. U-Haul has other large storage centers in Rio Rancho and Hobbs; it also opened two in former Kmarts — one in Farmington seven months ago and Roswell 18 months ago. U-Haul also has a 700-unit center in permitting in Clovis, one in the planning stages in Carlsbad and two with imminent groundbreakings set in Bernalillo and Los Lunas.
The national Self Storage Association trade group — through its SSA Magazine and Self Storage Archive — reports there are 49,000 storage facilities in the country with 1.9 billion square feet. An estimated 10.6 percent of U.S. households, or 13.5 million households, rent self-storage units.
SSA Magazine, in an article titled “The Gold Years” reports that self-storage inventory in the United States has grown 20 percent in the past five years, but the vacancy rate was a record-low 5.5 percent in mid-2021.
SSA calculates there are 5.9 square feet of storage per person in the United States. In Santa Fe, the number is closer to 11 square feet per person, Thomas said.
“While there are a lot of unique attributes to Santa Fe, I would contend that we are definitely approaching an overbuilt level of self-storage here in Santa Fe,” he said.
RentCafe, a nationwide apartment and self-storage search website, calculates that 21 percent of U.S renters use self-storage, with Gen Xers the most likely tenants followed by baby boomers and millennials.
RentCafe, in a survey of 4,200 renters, discovered that moving and lack of sufficient space at home are the top reasons people use self-storage.
“A lot of our stuff is temporary,” Porras said about U-Haul storage in general. “The national average is 13 months.”
In Santa Fe, with all the construction of houses as well as increasing theft, builders are making increasing use of self storage to keep construction materials and equipment secure, Thomas said.
But the bread-and-butter for self storage is people with more stuff than fits in their homes. The jury is still out on how long the work-at-home dynamic will keep cresting, and with it room conversions relegating furnishings to storage.
“Office conversions is kind of a fluid situation,” Porras said. “We feel it’s going to continue to go in that direction.”