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Vanguard Self-Storage Converts a 142-Year-Old Building into Smart Storage

Aug 22, 2022

The 142-Year-Old Conversion: Challenges, Solutions, and Results

AKT Two Realty LLC and Vanguard Investors Ltd saw the potential for self-storage in a New York neighborhood and decided to make their grand entrance by renovating a 142-year-old building into Vanguard Self-Storage. Their conversion project was far from easy, but if you ask anyone on the team, it was well worth it. Just 3 short months after opening, Vanguard Self-Storage is already at an occupancy rate nearing 50% and steadily growing.

The building was originally constructed in 1880 and opened in 1890 as the Empire Brush Factory. Over the next 50 to 60 years, 5 more buildings were added to it to accommodate growth. At the height of the business, it was the largest employer in the Village of Port Chester, NY. As manufacturing migrated away from the Northeast, Empire Brush stopped operations, closed its doors, and the building fell into serious disrepair. 

Old Empire Brush Building before Self-Storage Renovation

At the time of the acquisition, none of the buildings were in compliance with code, none had clear paths of travel, and none shared a cohesive design or organizational faculty. The buildings were in such disrepair that there was a vacate order in place, and the prior owner was placed in a criminal violation.

Challenge: The building was in complete disrepair and subject to a vacate order due to noncompliance with fire and safety regulations, so egregious that it placed the prior owner in a criminal violation.

As expected with the age of the building, additional challenges continued to present themselves throughout the conversion project. Not only was imagining the conglomeration of mixed-use buildings into one, cohesive design an obstacle, but they also had to terminate leases and vacate the buildings before they were able to get started on any renovations. 

Vanguard Self-Storage Parking Lot before Conversion  Vanguard Self-Storage before Conversion

Solution: A complete overhaul of the building(s) and the implementation of the Nokē Smart Entry System

Getting the buildings where they wanted them was no easy task, but the entire team worked together to turn this conversion project into a self-storage masterpiece. Working in cooperation with the village and the fire marshal, Vanguard Self-Storage successfully terminated all of the leases and vacated the building, thereby removing the vacate order and any threats to health and safety while commencing renovations for the self-storage facility. Once the renovations began, the team was faced with one challenge after another, from structural engineering to meeting codes and creating the perfect environment for a class-A self-storage facility.

Fixing The Structure

The team had to figure out structural challenges such as shoring up the 2nd and 3rd floors for load-bearing capabilities. This involved an intricate system of I-beams, lally columns, and concrete pillars that were cut into the first floor and carefully balanced and aligned with laser measuring devices within 1/16th inch margins. The entire 3rd-floor brick façade had to be steel structure anchor tied into the inner roof and I-beam support structure. Penetrations throughout the superstructure were then anchor-tied into the existing inner steel structure. There were 168 old glass factory windows that had to be removed and blocked up to seal the structure and meet current codes for thermal and energy efficiency, and others were replaced with Janus Architectural Faux Window Assemblies. They used spray foam insulation with a fireproofing coating to meet the insulation rating of at least 9.5 under current efficiency codes.

Inside of Old Building Before Self-Storage Conversion  Inside of Old Building before Self-Storage Conversion

Several areas of the superstructure were deteriorated and required high area masonry pointing, re-bricking, and re-blocking. An underpinning wall structure needed to be constructed in the new lobby area to an adjoining, existing building. Sika CarboDur S, a pultruded carbon fire reinforced polymer (CFRP) laminate designed for strengthening concrete structures was used for lateral load-bearing capacity. It was also bonded onto the structure as external reinforcement using SikaDur 30 epoxy resin as the adhesive.

Jumping Regulatory Hurdles and Getting the Building Up to Code

All new ductwork, shielded electrical, plumbing, fireproof spray foam wall insulation, sprinklers, fire safety systems, LED sensor-activated lighting, and painting needed to be accomplished during the renovation. The entire plumbing and drainage had to be designed and tied to the very old municipal existing facilities. Several regulatory hurdles had to be addressed, remedied, and overcome, all while building the confidence of the local oversight officials that acceptable standards were being met and applied to every single inch of the property.

Chipping Away 142 Years of Build Up

The main roof structure had to be substantially rebuilt. New roofing was applied with state-of-the-art Durolast roofing. New HVAC rooftop units needed to have penetrations at specific areas of the roof not where they used to exist. Specialized cranes had to be used to lift the units because surrounding overhead electrical lines in a residential area present a certain unique challenge. 

Our Personal Favorite - The Doors!

A variety of new doors had to be installed in the facility. These included fire-rated exit doors, insulated loading bay and garage door units to handle the Northeast winter climate, and of course, the diversified mix of unit doors. Installing the Janus self-storage doors was one of the last steps in completing the building for opening. Accompanied with the industry-famous doors was the implementation of the Nokē Smart Entry System. This made the building, access points, and storage units completely hands-free. 

Adding a Building for Good Measure

The plans also included the construction of a new one-story building of contemporary design with 7 pairs of automatic sliding glass doors. The new building features steel, glass, and brick construction that serves as the lobby, main entrance, and focal design of the facility and the project. The exterior façade design, color palette, and new fenestration of the entire project were all designed to meet the demanding requirements and endorsement of the village architectural review board. Significant details were also designed into the project to accommodate the residential surroundings in which the property is located. These include substantial investment in landscaping, lighting, and security monitoring, which has resulted in an overall improvement in an area of the village that was previously blighted and a magnet for crime. "The expressions of appreciation from the local community are constant, many of whom are now loyal customers". 

Results: Vanguard Self-Storage becomes the first facility offering Smart Entry in all of Westchester County, NY. 

After completing their lengthy list of renovations and new construction to get the facility exactly where they wanted it, Vanguard Self-Storage was able to celebrate its grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony with the county executive, NYS senator, chamber of commerce, and other attendees from the community.

The 4-story self-storage building consisting of 36,000 gross square feet is the first Smart Entry System building in all of Westchester County, NY. The design concept was beyond excellent in that every aspect of configuring 6 different buildings into a singular, unitary, and fully functional and accessible building was executed flawlessly. No other facilities in the area offer the technological advantages that Vanguard Self-Storage does. From the gate to the front door to the individual unit, all customers have customized access at their fingertips via the Smart Entry app or Bluetooth fob.

What does Vanguard Self-Storage Like Most about Nokē? 

Each individual unit has thermal motion detectors that alert the customer and the site operator of any activity. Customers also have the ability to share their unit on a temporary or permanent basis, so family members or company staff can get into the unit with just a mobile phone. This digital key sharing lets the customer know through the automatic activity log when the shared key users arrive, how long they've been there, and when they've closed the unit and left.

Smart Units with ADA Compliance in Self-Storage Hallway  Smart Entry in Self-Storage Hallway

The Vanguard Self-Storage building now encompasses beautiful features, such as brand-new oversized freight elevators with 10-foot ceiling heights and 2 bathrooms on each floor for customer comfort. New HVAC units have been installed for climate control throughout the whole entire facility. All new electric, plumbing, and sprinkler systems, fire safety systems, and lighting with sensor-driven lights for efficiency and elegance. As a customer walks through, the lights on the passages turn on, giving a special glow to the path of travel and looking very futuristic. Nearly every unit has a sensor drive LED light inside the unit (very large units have 2 lights).

“Every customer says, “WOW” when they see the beautiful design and excellent color selection throughout each floor, with different colored doors per floor. All floors are newly designed to ensure ease of travel, smooth transitions, and neat and clean appearances in every way.”

Vanguard Self-Storage Elevator Doors  Vanguard Self-Storage Lobby

The design of the building even took advantage of the site topography, providing on-grade access to loading areas for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd floors from 3 different elevations, minimizing elevator use and congestion points.

Garage Doors for Loading Area Before Self-Storage Renovation   Garage Doors for Loading Area After Self-Storage Conversion

With a significant upgrade to the existing structure, the self-storage conversion majorly improved the building's appearance and significantly improved the Westchester County neighborhood. Now, beautiful landscaping, brand new sidewalks, plants, paving, and elegant fencing surround the class-A facility and welcome the community in. 

Additional Advice: There are multiple reasons to go with a Self-Storage Conversion

While many conversion projects are chosen because they can save time, money, and resources when compared to new construction, that's not the only reason they can be a smart money move. In the case of Vanguard Self-Storage, they chose this conversion project because of its location and the demographics in its area. It may have cost them more time, money, and resources initially, but the investment was well worth it in the long run.

Vanguard Self-Storage Exterior After Self-Storage Conversion
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