After pioneering similar developments in Longmont and Highlands Ranch, entrepreneurs Glenn McWilliams and Mike Ard are starting construction on their third high-end storage complex, on 6.3 acres at Shaffer Place and West Chatfield Avenue in the Ken Caryl Business Center.
The partners are building 103 units total, of which 84 are traditional and 19 are somewhat fancier, mixed-use units suitable for a small businesses. McWilliams is a longtime Littleton resident, and Ard lives in Wheat Ridge. The groundbreaking took place April 27, and a sales trailer is now on site.
The basic or traditional condo storage units are heated, with 14-foot-high automatic overhead doors, pedestrian doors, individually metered electric and water service, full insulation, RV power outlet, sprinklers and phone/cable access.
The basic units are priced at $75,000 to $200,000-plus, and average about 1,000 square feet for $131,000. There is a projected monthly $45 maintenance fee.
The mixed-use units range from $170,000 to about $240,000 and from 1,250 to 1,500-plus square feet. They will have full plumbing, bathroom and shower capability, central air-conditioning, storefront windows, mailbox service, signage opportunities and high-end cable and communications. There is a slightly higher maintenance fee. All units are designed to be used anytime day or night.
"This isn't for everybody," Ard said. "The market is a lot of empty-nesters who have downsized, people with collections and lots of toys, like boats, RVs and motorcycles that they can't park in the driveway."
The benefit of buying rather than renting is in purchasing an asset that theoretically increases in value over time.
Some small businesses buy the traditional GarageTown units, but they aren't allowed to put up signs, have customers or house employees other than the owner. Traditional units are geared for ordinary storage or businesses where most of the work is done off site, like landscaping or an alarm company or electrician.
"The mixed-use units can have signs," Ard said. "That's what we are trying to address with the new units, because people have traditionally asked for that. They can have employees and customers."
The units are appropriate for limited retail and professional offices but not for businesses like restaurants or gift shops that generate a lot of traffic and parking demand.
Instead of renting units, GarageTown sells the unit and the land beneath it, installs landscaping and uses higher-end materials and pitched roofs, so the atmosphere isn't unduly industrial.
Drawings show that the profile facing the housing development on the north will look more like single-story townhomes than garages or self-storage units. There will be five large buildings in all. Ard maintains that the plans have been favorably received by the neighbors.
The 19 mixed-use units are designed to appeal to small businesses, but no retail, restaurant or home-improvement establishments are allowed. So far a lawyer has reserved one of the units, and a taxidermist is looking at another one, Ard said.
Ard and McWilliams built their first GarageTown together in Longmont in 2005. Their second one was in Highlands Ranch in 2007.
The third one was nearly one-third sold when one of the partners at the time, Tom Johnson, was killed in a motorcycle accident in Mexico involving a drunken driver. As a result, the project had to be put on hiatus and the down-payment money returned to the prospective owners and reservation holders.
It took a few years, but the partners were eventually able to buy the land and the right to use the GarageTown name for $1.3 million. Most of their 24 investors are people who bought units in the Highlands Ranch and Longmont GarageTowns. After interviewing 15 banks, they found one that would lend the money for construction. Jefferson County allowed the developers to pick up where they left off in the permit process, rather than start over again.
"There are other companies that have tried this," Ard said. "But we have better locations. It's a demographic and convenience thing."
GarageTown units don't work in the middle of nowhere where land is cheap, Ard said. It has to be a safe place where anyone can feel comfortable going at night.
The owners try to foster a sense of community and relationship with the customers, who are encouraged to socialize at the clubhouse on the premises.
The owners expect to stay involved as property managers after the build-out and the units are sold.
This isn't their last GarageTown; they hope to build three or four more in the Denver area, possibly in Cherry Creek or Monument.
Contact Vicky Gits at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.