Developers ready to open mid-city storage facility

One of the larger new commercial developments in recent years will open in Sweet Home next week.

Storage Depot Mini Storage, a 62,000-square-foot, 427-unit facility located on three acres of property at 4199 Main St., across from the Cedar Shack restaurant, will officially open its doors with a grand opening celebration from noon to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 26.

Brothers Scott and Spencer Lepman of Albany are the owners and developers of the storage units, and they have plans for the rest of the 15-acre property they began developing several years ago.

The Lepman brothers have worked together on a wide variety of development and redevelopment projects dating back to 1980, they said. Most of their projects have been storage facilities and rentals, one of which was Albany’s first urban renewal project.

That was the former Jenkins and White seed cleaning facility at Jefferson and Water streets in downtown Albany, which they converted into 16 loft-style apartments.

“We utilized the existing timbers as accents in the interiors,” Spencer Lepman said.

One of their other projects was the old Swift and Co. turkey processing plant, which they remodeled into offices for their company.

The Lepmans grew up in San Diego and came to Oregon in the late 1970s, Spencer arriving first in 1976 because he got an offer to double his salary as a welder by working as a logger in Roseburg, he said. He pulled green chain for three months, then worked for three years at the Douglas County Lumber mill, then as a diesel mechanic.

About that time, Scott came to Oregon to take a job in the Linn County Assessor’s Office.

In 1983 the economy was in bad shape and Spencer’s wife developed cancer. He asked Douglas Community Hospital if he could work off her hospital bill. He stayed there 16 years.

“I went from sweeping the parking lot to plant director,” he said. “Working at the hospital gave me experience in all sorts of construction and plant maintenance.

He said his experience in maintenance has helped him in development because he aims for designs that minimize maintenance problems.

“I’ve done several storage facilities. Scott allows me to do what I do. I like to make it look as good as possible and he gives me time and resources to do what I think is best.”

He said that they take their developments personally, partly because they plan to keep them. It’s a cooperative venture.

“I develop for feasibility,” said Scott Lepman, who also works as an appraiser. “Spencer is very skilled at a variety of construction-related skills. Not only is he skilled at it, he is very knowledgeable. So we do a lot of things ourselves.”

Spencer built most of the storage facility, including making the wrought-iron fencing at the front of the complex, the Lepmans said.

In addition to the storage units, they say they’ve installed all the infrastructure necessary for more complete development by mitigating the wetlands on the site and installing a 36-inch underground storm drain that contains the water from the runoff that would be created by pavement and buildings. The runoff will be metered and would not be allowed to run directly into the river, as most of the city’s now is.

“When the site is fully developed there will be a lot of impervious area,” Scott Lepman said. “We’ve created bioswales and retention ponds to let (water) slowly meter out.”

They’ve also created a de-acceleration lane on eastbound Highway 20.

He noted that the brothers are the third owners to attempt to develop the property for commercial or retail use.

“We want the mini storage to be a success, but where we hit the home run is the surplus land. We now have the site developed for any commercial or retail development. That was our goal.

The new storage facility has on-site resident managers, Bryce and Megan Fariss, and includes a variety of security measures including a security system for each individual door, intercoms and video surveillance that monitors and records all activity in the complex 24 hours a day, Lepman said.

They want to build a shopping center, anchored by a larger store or restaurant, on the property.

“We’ve had interest from big box stores over time,” Lepman said. “We’ve heard from larger retailers and small commercial businesses, but regional national chains are uncertain about this market due to lack of retail information in Sweet Home.”

He said that the kind of definitive information large retailers and restaurant chains want is lacking about the demographics and buying habits of local residents.

“There’s a threshold in the population in the trade area that excites retailers and gives them the green light,” he said. “There’s not enough market information historically. That’s why no retailers have come to Sweet Home.

“I think the curious thing I’m noticing in this process is we have a fairly large community here but there has not been any significant retail development since they did the downtown in ’40s.”

The brothers want to change that.

“We’re hopeful that we can get someone who will sign a lease,” Scott Lepman said. “We’re long term-hold investors. I think that, with Spencer’s skill, we can develop anything.”

Storage Depot can be reached at 367-7777.