A 100-year-old former paint factory in downtown Louisville, KY, is on its way to becoming a 726-unit self-storage facility.

Aaron Willis, president of Column Group Real Estate, told The SpareFoot Storage Beat that his company has the 110,000-square-foot property under contract. Willis said he expects construction to start next spring, with the facility opening next winter.

Willis said the former Kurfees Paint Co. building at 201 E. Market St. has been on his radar for some time. “It’s a building I’ve passed on a daily basis,” Willis said.

Other developers have tried to buy the building, but Willis said those deals always have fallen through. “It is too cost-prohibitive for a hotel or an apartment building,” he said.

After seeing the conversion of a historic warehouse into self-storage in Philadelphia, it dawned on Willis that the Kurfees building was ideal for the same type of project.

Plan in motion

Willis contacted the owner and took a tour of the building in August. After that, he made an offer and started putting his plan in motion.

Kurfees Paint building
The Kurfees Paint Co. building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The beautiful thing is it’s almost right in the middle of downtown. There is very limited competition around us, with a lot of multifamily development going on downtown,” Willis said.

This project will create 66,000 rentable square feet of climate-controlled storage. The building has five floors, one of which is underground.

Because the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Willis’ company is eligible to receive state and federal preservation tax credits for renovating the property, equal to 30 percent of the construction costs. The estimated construction price tag for this project is $2.2 million.

The tax credits can be sold to third-party investors, allowing Willis to generate about $500,000 for the project.

The paint factory, built in 1915, features the Beaux-Arts style of architecture.

Self-storage novice

This project will be the first self-storage development for Willis’ company, which focuses on brokering apartment deals.

“It’s almost like a little baby for us. If it goes well, and we hope it does, then we want to look at other markets similar to ours,” Willis said.

Many vacant industrial properties in Rust Belt cities are suitable targets for self-storage, he said.

Willis said he’s seeking a third-party management company to run the Louisville property. He’s also exploring the possibility of a sale to an operator once the conversion is done. “We’d probably prefer to sell it,” Willis said.

Alexander Harris