New president of MCSS ‘strategically’ pursuing acquisition and development deals

John Egan
Published April 9, 2019

As the new president of MCSS Development & Investment LLC, Ben Carr is “prudently” hunting for self-storage acquisitions and development sites in major markets across the U.S.

In fact, Carr, a veteran of the self-storage industry, was in full deal-pursuit mode at the just-concluded Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas, NV. The announcement of Carr’s new job at the Coconut Grove, FL-based self-storage owner and developer came on the first day of the convention.

At MCSS, Carr said he’s tasked with “prudently and strategically” growing the company, which is a joint venture between Coconut Grove-based Rivergate Cos. LLC and SJM Partners Inc., with offices in Delray Beach, FL, and Reston, VA. Carr said he’s searching for value-add opportunities, “as well as those deals that others either just did not have the ability to execute on or could not because they didn’t have the expertise.”

Venturing outside Florida

A Miami-area storage facility developed by MCSS

As it stands now, MCSS operates solely in the Miami, FL, market, where 11 facilities either are open or under development, according to the company’s website.

However, the company already is expanding outside Florida. Carr said two self-storage facilities are on tap for the Los Angeles, CA, market and another two are under development in the New York City, NY, market.

In all, MCSS has close to 2 million square feet of self-storage in various stages of development and lease-up. MCSS turns to third-party managers to run its facilities.

From a geographic standpoint, MCSS is in the midst of finalizing its expansion plan, Carr said. In a news release, MCSS said its “active” markets include South Florida; Los Angeles; New York; Washington, DC; Boston, MA; and Northern California.

Aside from chasing infill development sites in the top 50 metro areas, Carr is overseeing the company’s new acquisition platform, taking aim at the same major markets.

“It’s the higher-quality markets that we’ll be focused on,” Carr said.

Beyond “kicking the tires”

Broadly speaking, the self-storage industry has been grappling with oversupply in the past few years, but Carr said he’s prepared to overcome possible supply-and-demand concerns by undertaking a “very thorough examination” of the variables for every prospective deal.

“It’s more than your old ‘kicking the tires’. It’s lots of phone calls. It’s boots on the ground. And it’s being willing to walk away from a deal if you find something that doesn’t support your thesis,” Carr told the SpareFoot Storage Beat.

While Carr is concentrating on big markets, that doesn’t preclude MCSS from going after “creative” small deals that hold the potential for value-add expansion or redevelopment, he said. Ultimately, Carr is looking for acquisition targets that feature at least 65,000 net rentable square feet and that offer a three-mile trade area with high density. Carr said he’s especially interested in “quietly marketed” deals.

“Impressive” experience

Carr’s deep knowledge of the self-storage industry will underpin his quest for acquisition and development opportunities.

Before joining MCSS, Carr founded and ran a self-storage investment fund while also serving as a consultant to self-storage investors.

Carr previously was chief investment officer of Roseville, CA-based self-storage owner and developer LifeStorage, where he played a pivotal role in selling the company’s entire portfolio in 2016 for nearly $1.36 billion. The Williamsville, NY-based self-storage REIT now known as Life Storage bought the portfolio. Earlier, Carr spent eight years at Malvern, PA-based self-storage REIT CubeSmart, where he was vice president of investments and controller.

“Ben’s impressive industry experience, knowledge and contacts will undoubtedly add tremendous value to MCSS and accelerate the strategic vision of the venture’s partners,” Jay Massirman, co-founder of MCSS, said in the announcement of Carr’s hiring.

“Incredibly healthy” industry

As he strives to carry out that strategic vision, Carr expresses optimism about the self-storage industry.

“I look at today’s storage market, and I think it’s incredibly healthy,” he said. “There are certain markets where a lot of new facilities have come online in the last 24 months. But in most instances, a lot of the data that I have seen … shows that while rates are depressed in certain markets, the product is still filling up — albeit a little slower than we had seen in the earlier part of this cycle.”

“I don’t a see a demand issue in our industry,” Carr added. “New development is cyclical. There has been a tremendous boom in new supply over the last few years, but that will subside at some point. The demand profile is what keeps me excited as I think about the longer-term view of self-storage.”

John Egan

John is a freelance writer and editor. He first moved to Austin in 1999, when downtown Austin wasn't nearly as lively as it is today. John's loves include pizza, University of Kansas basketball and puns.

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