A new self-storage facility with executive office suites is coming to Oro Valley.
Last Wednesday, Sept. 18, the town council approved a rezoning of about 5.7 acres near North Oracle Road and West Calle Concordia. The new addition will sit adjacent to the Oro Valley Aquatic Center and James D. Kriegh Park.
Councilmembers Bill Rodman, Steve Solomon, Rhonda Piña and Joyce Jones-Ivey voted in favor of the project, while Mayor Joe Winfield and councilmembers Melanie Barrett and Josh Nicolson voted against it.
Council’s approval grants the site’s developer, CEO Hank Amos of Tucson Realty and Trust Company, a conditional use permit allowing the construction of a 115,000-square-foot building used for self-storage.
The facility will be comprised of 1,000 storage spaces with 13 executive office suites on both levels. The first floor of the tiered building is restricted to 16 feet, while the second floor’s maximum is 25 feet.
Before council’s decision last week, such a building wouldn’t be allowed at the site because the parcel was zoned for large residential lots. The rezoning allows for tech park uses, in anticipation of a larger tech park facility planned directly north of the property.
Presenting the proposal to council, Oro Valley Principal Planner Milini Simms said there was one neighborhood meeting held for this project. The main concerns were impacts to mountain views from the aquatics center and adjacent residences, hours of operations and preserving the open space on the southern portion of the property in perpetuity.
Mimms explained to the council these concerns were mitigated by placing the building farther away from residents and closer to the future tech park development. Amos also agreed to vary the building height and proposed a lower building height than what is allowed by code.
To address nearby neighbors’ concerns about nighttime activity and noise typically associated with self-storage, Amos had originally agreed to limit business hours from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., with keycard-restricted access after hours until 11 p.m. The council voted to remove that condition, making it a 24-hour operation.
The town’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved recommendation of the project, with the condition that Amos agree to operate the executive office suites for 10 years. That was the commission’s main concern, citing a need for more job creation. Some councilmembers disagreed with that move, saying it was government overreach. The majority voted to remove that condition as well.
“To me, that steps over the line of what government should be doing,” Rodman said at the meeting. “Let’s think about taking away that 10-year guarantee of that space and let the market decide. And obviously, if you can make more money, you’re going to do that. If you can’t then I don’t think we should be telling you to look at empty office space.”
Piña and Solomon agreed, with Solomon saying the two conditions would impede the potential success of the project, or “shooting ourselves in the foot.”
“I think mainly what [Planning and Zoning Commission] wanted was a commitment on my part that I would do an executive suite business, and I wouldn’t just do it and then get out of it,” Amos explained to the council. “But this is a business that I’m in. Currently, I have Wilmot Corporate Executive Suites on Wilmot Road just north of Broadway.”
Barrett said this was a “compromise project,” citing the need for more direct employment opportunities within that parcel and Oro Valley in general. She tried to get the council to keep a five year commitment for the office suites, but was rejected.
“I think the executive suite component of the project is extremely important, because that’s the part that can justify this project going on land that’s designated for employment land,” Barrett said.
Amos and local planning firm The Planning Center anticipate a $13 million price tag on the building, which by their estimates, would create about $500,000 in construction tax revenue for the town.
Nearly all of a nearby wash and 48 percent of the parcel’s open space will be preserved. There will be a 300 foot buffer between neighboring structures, and a 6 foot 10 inch screening wall between the storage building and the aquatics center.
There will be only one access point to the business via Oracle Road, and the plan is to share that access road with the future tech park development.
Because the town has special design standards for buildings zoned for tech park use, such as in Innovation Park, the self-storage facility will have wall panels and faux windows, to visually break up the rectangular building.
“The proposed development anticipates the future development to the north, by providing an architectural design that’s reminiscent of a commercial office center rather than your typical self-storage and a cohesive circulation design for the future connection to the north,” Simms told the council.
Planner Brian Underwood, with The Planning Center, told the council that self storage is not just for personal uses, but also for businesses in construction, restaurant, retail and other general commercial uses.
“Space is a precious and often expensive commodity, especially for businesses trying to keep their overhead costs down,” Underwood said.
Amos and The Planning Center expect the project to create 40 to 50 new jobs in Oro Valley. This will come from 25 to 30 new tenants in the executive offices, along with 10 to 15 entrepreneurs or freelancers in the virtual offices.
“I’m conservatively projecting that in 10 years, 225 freelancers could be occupying spaces like this, with an average wage of about $120,000, and the return to the community would be phenomenal,” said JJ Johnston, Oro Valley Community and Economic Development Director.
According to Underwood, baby boomers and millennials make up 50 percent of Oro Valley’s population, and those age groups are looking for smaller, more communal working spaces.
He cited a trend in growing number of entrepreneurs and freelancers, telling the council that this project could bring Oro Valley its first co-working operation.
“Those executive office suites, that co-working space, brings Oro Valley into this emerging market that millenials and others are interested in doing business within,” said Dave Perry, president of the Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Underwood added that the building can easily be converted into additional office space, due to movable walls within the design. They also hope it will provide a natural jumping off point for successful startup businesses to move into the larger tech park nearby.
“It may have low traffic, but we feel it will have a tremendously positive impact on getting a tech park started in this area of the town,” he said.