Phoenix-based U-Haul International Inc., which operates more than 1,500 self storage facilities across North America and frequently recycles existing structures for its new locations, is converting a former Ultra Foods grocery store to self storage in Kanakee, Ill. The city council unanimously approved a conditional-use permit on Monday for the 77,000 square-foot building at 1200 Kennedy Drive, in the Shoppes at Meadowview complex, according to the source.
U-Haul will invest $5 million to $6 million to add between 50,000 and 55,000 square feet of storage to the building. Trailer and truck rentals are currently available at the site, the source reported.
U-Haul spent about two years searching for a suitable conversion property in the Kankakee-Bradley-Bourbonnais region, according to Aaron Freeman, marketing president for U-Haul Co. of Illinois. About a dozen sites were considered before the company chose the grocery store.
For now, U-Haul plans to lease the building but could purchase it outright along with the surrounding 14 acres in early 2019, according to Dan Wander, a senior vice president with Terraco Real Estate, one of the companies that owns the shopping center.
Prior to U-Haul’s offer, city officials as well as Terraco and its business partner, Frontline Real Estate Partners, had hoped another grocer would move into the building, which has been vacant since September 2017.
“This was not our first pick,” said Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong of the self-storage facility. “We lost the store and we worked hard to get a store, but we just weren’t able. This won’t be generating $200,000 in sales tax, but I certainly didn’t want it to sit there for three years.”
In addition to storage, the facility will offer bike and kayak sales, said Freeman, who expects sales of outdoor equipment to be successful due to the facility’s proximity to Kankakee River. “We will find out what customers want and provide more of it,” he said.
Established in 1945, U-Haul owns more than 32 million square feet of storage space. The company’s corporate sustainability initiatives, which support infill development to help local communities lower their carbon footprint, has led to dozens of conversion projects in recent years.