5 Steps: How To Convert Existing Buildings Into Mixed-Used Self-Storages

January 19, 2023 by
Sera Dohmann

The cultural shift towards more online shopping and remote working is damaging the vibrancy of many cherished neighbourhoods. With the demise of small and medium-sized retail shops and office buildings in mid-sized locations, many cities are losing their appeal. Self-storage facilities in particular can benefit from this trend and counteract this crisis. Traditionally, self-storage facilities were located on the outskirts of cities or in industrial areas. Now the demand for self-storage facilities is increasing, because: More and more people are moving to cities as living spaces become smaller. The growing number of vacant retail and commercial units in Europe offers new opportunities for the growing self-storage sector, especially mixed use facilities are in high demand near cities and in central locations.

What Mixed Use Facilities Are There?

Self-storage can be combined with any other use. However, it is worth paying attention to the location of the self-storage facility and also to the past use of the building.
Downtown: If you are converting an old office or choosing a central location, consider a co-working space as a mixed use case. 
Apartment building: If the building you want to renovate is located in an apartment building area, services such as a gym and cafés are best suited. 
Light commercial: Units aimed at car enthusiasts are becoming increasingly popular and range from a simple garage to a fully equipped craft workshop.. 

Of course, these are just a few suggestions. There are no limits to the Mixed Use Self-Storages. This is just to show that not only the suitable service of the Mixed Use Self-Storage is important, but also the location and environment should be taken into account.

Benefits of Mixed Use Facilities 

The self-storage industry has had to prove itself many times. The first time during the 2008 recession and again during COVID pandemic in 2019. It seems that self-storage performs well during upturns and downturns. With the growing demand for self-storage and the economic consistency and hence high interest from investors, the design and operational efficiency of storage is rapidly evolving and reaching a peak with today's fifth generation of storage. This peak is also called the 5th generation of self-storage. Fifth generation self-storage is defined by three main factors: Design, location and use. 

All these factors are oriented towards convenience and efficiency for the customer in the 5th generation. Therein lies the greatest parallel to retail. Storage is no longer at the airport, but centralised in cities. 
Within the definition of fifth generation is the usage component, which we will refer to in this blog article. By "use" we mean the services that the physical facility provides.


„From a political standpoint, why would a mayor or city council approve storage in their premier urban or retail-centric corridors? The facility does not create substantial jobs (usually two), the facility does not generate significant sales tax revenue (box and locks), and the facility does not produce material impact fees.”  - Bill Leitner, Real Assets Adviser 

Advantages Of Converting Existing Buildings Into Mixed Use Self-Storages

Investing in mixed-use facilities is not always as easy as it seems. In contrast to pure self-storage, the facility must be centrally located. Compared to simple co-working spaces or flats, however, the facility must be of an appropriate size to provide the necessary space. For mixed-use facilities, it is therefore often worth converting existing buildings. Converting an existing building into a multi-use facility including self-storage not only saves money, but also a lot of time. The time that would otherwise go into waiting for planning permission and into constructing a new building can be saved. In addition, the use of the existing building through a conversion enhances the neighbourhood, especially if it has stood empty for several years. Also, existing buildings often already have parking spaces, which saves additional money and time. If the parking spaces are not needed due to a very central location, the space can be used to enlarge the building to create even more space. It is easier to get planning permission for an existing building than for a brand new building. Coupled with structural changes in the retail and office markets, the self-storage facilities of the future will be less isolated than in years past.

Reduction of Risk

Mixed use often reduces the risk of the overall investment.


Mit mehr Dienstleistungen entstehen mehr Arbeitsplätze.


Better locations and thus more customer traffic.

Last Function

Additional tax revenue through the potential of lower cost recovery and thus higher profits. 

Eins der berühmtesten Beispiele für die Umgestaltung eines alten Lagerhauses ist Toys R‘ Us. Viele alte Toys R Us gebäude werden zu Climate conrtolled Self Storages umgebaut. Das Gebäude bleibt erhalten, doch es werden umfangreiche Renovierungen und Änderungen vorgenommen werden, um das Aussehen und die Funktionalität zu verbessern. Ein Großteil des Parkplatzes des ehemaligen Spielwarengeschäfts soll entfernt und durch Grünflächen und einen Rückhaltebecken am Nordende des Grundstücks ersetzt werden. Diese Konvertierung von einem unbenutzten und leeren Lagerhaus zu einer Self Storage Einrichtung ist ein gutes Beispiel dafür, wie der Umbau leerstehender Gebäude durch Renovierung und Begrünung das umliegende Stadtviertel aufwerten kann. D​ochauch in Deutschland und Europa gibt es Beispiele für erfolgreiche Umbauten alter Gebäude in Mixed Use Self Storages. Safebox-Selfstorage in Bielefeld, Deutschland, erwarb ein Gewerbegebäude am Stadtrand, das zuvor als Kettenfabrik genutzt wurde, und baute es zu einer Drive-in-Selfstorage-Anlage mit gemischter Nutzung um. Das war im Jahr 2007. In London plant die Big Yellow Group den Ausbau ihrer Battersea-Anlage zu einem gemischten Projekt mit Selbstlager-, Wohn-, Einzelhandels- und Büroflächen, während in Oldham eine ehemalige Mühle zu Selbstlager-, Büro-, Geschäfts- und Veranstaltungsflächen umgebaut wird. Der Betreiber MyPlace hat sich in Berlin mit einem angrenzenden KFC zusammengetan. Auch unsere Partner  und run mixed use self-storage facilities by combining self-storage with co-working spaces.

How Do I Convert An Old Warehouse?

Converting an old building into a modern storage facility may be cheaper than building a new one, but it is still important to act with caution and do thorough research before you put your money where your mouth is. A professional company that manufactures and installs storage units is the best partner for this type of project. Bringing storage units into compliance with government building codes can only be done by professionals. Find some vacant buildings and look at their location, size and price. Compare this to other cities and towns in your area. Location within a city can make or break your self-storage business. Once you have found a building and location, consider whether there is a need for a storage facility. Research other storage companies in the area. Now is the time to outfit your new purchase with storage units to transform the old building into a modern storage dream.


Find some vacant buildings and look at their location, size and price.


The location within a city can determine the success or failure of your self-storage business.


Now is the time to equip your new purchase with storage units to transform the old building into a modern storage dream.

Can Any Building Be Converted?

Theoretically, yes. In practice, no. In theory, you can convert any building into a mixed-use self-storage facility. However, it does not always make sense. Old warehouses or shopping centres, such as Toys R Us, are particularly suitable. The reason for this is usually the size and construction of the building. Most warehouses have no or only a few walls. It is usually easier to add walls and rooms, but tearing down old load-bearing walls can be difficult to impossible. Thus, warehouses are perfect for conversion, as they can be customised and have the necessary space.

Smart technology as the key to success

Now that the bearing is in place, it's down to the details. There is now a wide range of self-stoarges, also in the mixed-use sector. Now it is up to you to create the best offer. With the help of the latest technologies, it is possible to get by in self-storage and mixed-use facilities almost without staff, if you want to. To what degree the facility should be unmanned is still up to you. With the help of our technologies, it is possible to automate all entrances. With the help of digital access, your facility becomes more secure, as only authorised people have access to the building, easily via smartphone. Building controls such as heating, lights and lifts can also be controlled via app. This saves energy and therefore costs, which is reflected in the prices for tenants.

...summing up

Multi use facilites offer a wide range of services, but also have to meet many requirements, such as a good location, sufficient space, security and flexibility. They also need to be affordable and modern. Meeting all these requirements can be simplified by converting old buildings.