2017 Specialty Facility of the Year Winner: Sobe Self Storage, Miami Beach, Fla.
Affluence. That’s most likely the one word that comes to mind when talking about south Miami Beach, Fla. Upscale art deco buildings, giant yachts docked in the nearby harbor, fine dining, and celebrity sightings in the winter.
Those affluent visitors and
residents also have a penchant for fine wine, a fact that didn’t go unnoticed
to father and son partners Mike and Ken Endelman and Alan Potamkin when they
decided to develop a prime piece of real estate into self-storage.
“There’s a significant number of
high end collectors here,” says David Blum, president of Better Management
Systems, a consulting firm and management company that works with self-storage
facilities around the world. “There was a very strong belief this market could
support that type of storage.”
As the partners began researching
the possibility of adding wine storage to the already planned self-storage
business, they realized there really wasn’t anything like it in south Florida.
“We found there was one that had a walk-in cooler, but the humidity isn’t
controlled, and everyone is just taken in to retrieve their wine, which is
stored right next to other people’s wine,” says Ken Edelman. “With the
demographics in Miami Beach, we thought this was a great market to offer full-service
So far, the venture has been
proven successful. Sobe Self Storage has 140 temperature and humidity
controlled wine lockers with space to build custom units on demand.
The $1.5 million self-storage
facility opened in May, after a staggering eight-year approval and construction
Long Road To Approval
To understand the approval
process for the project located in one of the few prime building spots in south
Miami Beach, one must understand that the entire area is designated as a
In the 1970s, as some of the
historic art deco buildings in South Beach were being razed for parking lots
and commercial buildings that would bring more tax revenue to the city, a band
of local activists sought to protect some of the historic buildings from
demolition by seeking designation on the National Register of Historic places.
In 1979, they were successful.
It’s said to be the first in the nation that protected only buildings
constructed during the 20th century. That designation led to the
creation of the Historic Preservation Board. As well, local neighborhood
associations were created to work with the board for any new development.
In 2009, Potamkin and another
partner approached Blum about consulting on a self-storage project at 633 Alton
Rd. in Miami Beach. “Initially, there were two lots and it would have doubled
the size of the facility,” says Blum.
The site is located on a prime parcel
in South Beach, at the foot of a flyover (an overpass) from the city of Miami,
meaning anyone coming to South Beach from Miami will pass by the site. “That
site is really considered the gateway to Miami Beach,” says Blum.
“The approval process was a very
tedious process,” says Blum. “It was a four-year process.” There is one other self-storage
facility near the site, but the city didn’t want to open up the entire area to self-storage.
The first round of the process included getting the planning and zoning board
to open up just that area for zoning for self-storage.
The P&Z board decided that they
could carve out a six-block area between 5th Street east of Alton
Road to 11th Street east of Alton Road that is bordered by Lenox. Since
no buildings could be demolished in the historic district, this would ensure
that Sobe Self Storage would be the only self-storage facility in that six-block
zone, even if the zoning allowed for it.
After meeting with the P&Z
board several times, Blum said the developers then had to meet with the
Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association. Although the neighborhood association
only occupies one square mile, the group represents residents and business
owners of 1,200 historic buildings, most of them in the Art Deco or Mediterranean
style. There is a mix of a few new commercial and residential homes, but the
group, like many in historic districts, is very cognizant of its heritage and
goals to preserve the historic nature of the neighborhood.
“We had two meetings with the
neighborhood association and then three more meetings with the planning and
zoning board, which gave us the recommendation for the planning and zoning
commission,” says Blum. “We had several hearings with them, which took almost a
By the time planning and zoning
recommended it to the full city council, it took four years. At some point the
other developer eventually pulled out, which left the project only with one
lot. “I approached Ken and he was interested in the project; he and Alan formed
a partnership,” says Blum.
Edelman said the project was very
attractive to him. Based on population, the high density area can support at least
225,000 feet of storage; this area only had 22,000 square feet of existing
storage, which is almost always at 100 percent occupied, with an additional
22,000 square feet proposed with this project.
At that point, the project was
presented to the South Beach Historic Preservation Board. Although the name
sounds ominous in that some people may think that historic preservationists
shun all new development, the board really is credited by some to having helped
revitalize South Beach, preserving the historic buildings in the area while
allowing quality new development that will bring people and tax revenue to the
area. “They coached us on the design elements,” says Blum.
Because the site sits at the
bottom of the flyover from Miami Beach, the design was very important. “It
really had to be a landmark design,” says Blum. “It had to have street side
activation that provided a classic South Beach pedestrian experience.”
Manny Gutierrez, an architect
with Gutierrez and Lazano Architects, P.A., in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who had
worked with Edelman on other projects, was hired for the job. It might have
been easy to be intimidated just by the location. “In South Beach, you see
architectural works by architects from around the world,” says Gutierrez. “The
city sees this all the time, so this is what they demand, high-end architecture.
We’re a small firm; we’re not a national, much less an international firm, but
we were up to the challenge.”
Still, Gutierrez describes the demands
by the city as “humungous”. Gutierrez says, “They didn’t want to have the connotations
of self-storage at all, which is awful due to the image most people get in
their mind of a box with blank walls. It’s the last thing they want. Miami
Beach is very urban, very cosmopolitan, with a lot of foot traffic.”
But, with the local historic
designation, did the local historic board and neighborhood association want
something art deco or maybe Mediterranean to match some of the local historic
buildings in the area?
“Just because it’s in a historic
district doesn’t mean they want buildings that look like their historic
buildings,” says Gutierrez. “They don’t want to replicate what is. It isn’t
like New Orleans, where you have to do a French design. They wanted a very
It took two to three renderings
for the design to be approved, but what resulted was indeed a very modern
design with certain Art Deco pieces incorporated. One of the main challenges
was designing a building that was pedestrian friendly and incorporating all of
the elements of the inside storage facility on only a 15,000-square-foot lot.
Code demanded the building be only
22,500 square feet with a 40-foot-high height limitation. Gutierrez had a
vision to create a very modern looking building with a lot of aluminum that
brought to mind the heyday of the large hotels and the last Miami Beach Golden
He added an aluminum grill with
circles at the top of the building; it’s his favorite design element, and he
feels brings the feel of South Beach to the building. “It’s an interpretation
of the glamour that is the area,” says Gutierrez.
In addition to the aesthetics,
the building had to have pedestrian friendly walking spaces in front and be
alluring to people walking by in both the daytime and nighttime. It was
designed with ample ambient lighting that may resemble more of a lit museum at
night than a self-storage facility.
“I had a competition with the
staff in my office to see if they could tell me what the building was designed
to be,” says Gutierrez. “People guessed a night club, a health club, they
guessed all kinds of things, but no one guessed it’s a storage facility.”
The parking lot, which was in the
back, also had many restrictions and rules placed on it by the city. Sobe Self
Storage may be the only self-storage facility in the country that has a
mandated bike rack. “It’s the first time I’ve ever known of it to happen,”
Edelman explains when they went
through the planning and zoning process no one requested special consideration
for parking. As a result, the city attached the industrial zoning to the
facility, requiring it to have 16 parking spots, which is excessive for self-storage.
By agreeing to install a bike rack for 14 bikes, the city agreed to reduce the
amount of parking required to 11 spots.
Sobe decided to offer those bike
slots for rent, although no one has rented them as of yet.
To make the project work
financially, Edelman knew the interior design also had to include lockers
stacked one on top of the other. This is typically done in smaller storage
facilities in urban areas, which allows them to charge by the cubic foot. There
is a mix of 844 full size and stacked units. Blum says this provides a
potential monthly gross income of more than $110,000. The facility is currently
18 percent occupied, but they haven’t had a chance to market the facility to
the snowbirds, which is high season in Miami. They hope, like their
competition, to be 100 percent occupied by next year. Rents on Miami Beach
typically are 30 to 40 percent higher than on the mainland.
The interior is sleek with shiny
floors and white and light-colored units with bright lighting. Janus
International provided the interior systems. Richard Lillie, southeast sales
manager for Janus says the project was unique in its design due to the stacked
units. “The loading of our materials into the building provided a challenge
because the site is so small,” Lillie says. “We loaded from the ground, roof
top stair cases, and elevator in order to get out materials in place.”
Edelman says construction on the
project had all of the challenges of building in an urban area, including
making sure all of the subcontractors and equipment were coordinated, but Sobe
ended up with a solid building that evidently was able to withstand the recent power
of Hurricane Irma. “When we came in after the hurricane, there was a light on
in the elevator and we were afraid we had a flooded pit,” says Edelman. “We
called the guy and he was there in 30 minutes. Turns out, it was just an alarm.
There was no water; our flood panel and all of our systems worked great. The
guy couldn’t believe it. He said he was getting calls from all over about
PTI Security Systems was hired to
install the security system, which includes more than a dozen cameras in the
facility, as well as seven keypads, intercoms, and PTI’s fully integrated
software on the doors and gates. “Using PTI’s fully integrated software, Sobe
is able to grant their customers 24-hour access to their possessions while
still keeping the facility completely secure,” says Christine DeBord, marketing
and reseller manager for PTI. “Sobe also understands how important visual
displays of security are both to thwart crime and attract new renters. As such,
they’re utilizing site graphics from PTI to display unit status and facility
layout to renters.”
All About The Wine
Many self-storage facilities have
tried wine storage in the past with little to no success. So, what makes Sobe
Self Storage unique? The affluent demographics in Miami Beach. “You have to
have the right demographic for wine storage to be successful,” Blum says.
South Beach has an affluent
demographic, so Sobe can tap into the people who park their yachts in the
nearby harbor, as well as high-end restaurants who don’t want to pay their
premium rents for wine storage. “We are next to the highest volume selling wine
store in Florida,” says Blum. “The store has bottles that sell for $12,000.”
Blum says Sobe has been very
successful marketing the wine storage. “We have a client who has a $6 million
collection,” notes Blum. “He doesn’t have it all here yet, but we’ve built him
a custom room, and he pays $100,000 a year to store with us.”
For that type of collection, Sobe
knew it had to provide the ultimate wine storage experience, which includes
climate and humidity control that has back-up generators (which also didn’t
fail during Hurricane Irma), as well as state-of-the-art security.
Self-storage customers cannot
access the wine storage area. It has a triple secure system with biometrics.
“Even if a restaurant has someone come in to get wine, their employee must be
matched to the biometric system,” Blum says. The security system includes a
“man trap”. After entering through the first door, the customer has to enter
another door through security glass that cannot be broken.
Edelman says the wine storage
business has been so successful that they will likely later add more wine
storage by reducing the amount of 22,000 square feet of self-storage.
Facility Owner: EP Sobe Storage, LLC Management Company: Better Management Systems, LLC Architect: Guitierez and Lozano Architects, P.A. Builder: Edelman Development Corporation Security System: PTI Security Systems Doors & Hallway Systems: Janus International Management Software: SiteLink
Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell is a freelance journalist based in the Ozark Mountains. She is a regular contributor to MiniCo’s publications. Her business articles have also appeared in Entrepreneur, Aol.com, MSN.com, and The Kansas City Star.