U-Haul’s national strategy of buying, renovating and reopening former Kmart stores is coming to Sanford.
The Arizona-based truck and trailer rental company recently purchased three parcels totaling 15.52 acres on South Orlando Drive. One of the parcels includes the 101,753-square-foot, vacant Kmart store at 3101 S. Orlando Dr. The site is located south of State Road 417 and West Airport Boulevard in a commercial retail district.
U-Haul Co. of Florida paid $5.3 million for the parcels, according to a deed recorded August 16 in Seminole County. The seller was Boulder, Colo.-based Buffalo Land Co. LLC, headed by managing member Thomas L. Garvin.
U-Haul is looking for contractors to renovate the 40-year-old big box store and two smaller buildings nearby, said Matt Braccia, president of Amerco Real Estate Co., an affiliate of U-Haul. The empty big-box store will be repurposed for climate-controlled storage, Braccia said.
The largest of the two remaining buildings at 32,429 square feet is slated to be a warehouse. The remaining, 13,000-square-foot building will house more indoor self-storage space and a showroom and retail outlet for the many moving accessories U-Haul sells.
“We just got (zoning) approval,” Braccia told GrowthSpotter. “We’ve just started on getting it built. We would start renting trucks right away, but the storage is typically six months down the road before it’s complete.”
Founded in 1945, U-Haul got started renting do-it-yourself trailers to families on the move. But as the company has grown, it’s expanded its offerings to include self-storage.
The new location in Sanford will have around 800 storage rooms ranging from 5-by-5 feet to 10-by-15 feet in size, said Parul Butala, director for land use and planning for Amerco Real Estate. Of the 65,000 square feet of self-storage at the new facility, about 56,000 square feet will be climatized space. The rest will be in smaller, individual self-storage buildings.
“We’re confident in the demand for our climate-controlled self-storage,” U-Haul Chairman and President Joe Shoen told GrowthSpotter. “That’s where the market has been going for a long time.”
The company followed a similar protocol in 2018 when it bought a former flea market in Kissimmee and converted it into a storage, rental and moving supply business servicing the Four Corners market.
U-Haul has purchased at least two dozen former Kmart stores around the country, not including the recent buy in Sanford. Shoen said the former discount stores are generally well-built and can be repurposed into U-Haul stores and storage at a much lower cost than ground-up construction.
Renovating rather than building new structures also fits in nicely with U-Haul’s sustainability initiatives, which include “energy conservation and waste reduction in accordance with our principles to reduce, adaptively reuse and recycle materials.”
“We’ll save all the environmental havoc that would be caused by tearing a building down,” Shoen said. “We reuse most of the improvements that are there.”
Smaller outdoor self-storage units will be located in the former Kmart parking lot close to Orlando Drive.
“It gives us a different product mix and it also conveys storage to (drive-by) customers,” Braccia said. “If those weren’t out there and you just had a storage door on the building, you probably wouldn’t even notice the storage from the street.”
The current U-Haul store in Sanford at 1811 Rinehart Road will remain open once the new location is up and running, Shoen said. Having two stores in the same town also fits in well with the company’s sustainability philosophy.
“The closer the truck is to the user, the fewer miles they drive and the less fuel they burn,” Shoen said. “This is getting the product closer to the customer. It saves time, money and it lessens the carbon footprint.”
When fully staffed, the new U-Haul will employ 10-15 people, both full- and part-time.