Recession-proof and seemingly pandemic-resistant, Sault Ste. Marie's self-storage sector is heating up faster than a jalapeño's armpit.
With more than a half-dozen facilities already offering personal storage around town, three new locations have been approved this year, two of them just this week.
Back in January, David Toppan and Benjamin Cicchelli got approval for eight buildings for personal storage at 561-571 Second Line West.
On Monday of this week, Sault businessmen Joe and Dave Ruscio each got the go-ahead to build their own separate storage facilities.
Dave Ruscio's Ruscio Masonry and Construction Ltd. persuaded City Council to grant needed zoning changes at 2176 Queen St. E., 225 metres east of Boundary Road, across Queen Street from the east-end wastewater treatment plant.
Joe Ruscio's Ruscio Developments Inc. got green-lit to build a 30,000-square-foot warehouse, together with as many as six 7,000- to 10,000-square-foot self-storage facilities at 885 Second Line E., 85 metres east of Pine.
City Council had previously approved a 2016 application allowing personal and outdoor storage on the Queen Street subject property, but that was tied to a planned Honda dealership that didn't happen there.
At Monday's City Council meeting, Joe Ruscio received permission to proceed with storage units on the property, even with no automobile sales or parts on the premises.
How hot is the self-storage business?
So hot that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates recently joined the ownership group of StorageMart, the world's largest privately owned self-storage company.
Writing recently for Forbes.com, Scott Meyers, founder of Kingdom Storage Holdings, said the coronavirus is forcing both individual and commercial renters to look for storage space when they're forced out of their homes and business addresses.
"During a recession, many businesses unfortunately risk the loss of failing," Meyers wrote.
"The hope is that these businesses are able to get back on their feet. Until then, however, they need a place to store their belongings – self-storage facilities."
Dave Ruscio's project on Queen Street is adjacent to a similar facility operated by Vaultra Self-Storage.
Some neighbours expressed concern about a recent removal of trees from part of the Ruscio property.
"The recent clear-cutting of a portion of the tree stand to the west of the subject property has already created a loss of privacy for properties backing onto this tree stand, not to mention loss of habitat for many bird species," said Ron and Dodie Mills in a letter to city planners.
"Any loss of this tree stand has a direct and immediate impact on not only the value of our property but our way of life. This tree buffer acts as a diffuser from the nearby sewage treatment plant odour; minimizes Queen Street traffic noise; and helps reduce dust from local housing construction."
City officials believe the tree-cutting was "inadvertent" by a third-party contractor and have committed to working with Ruscio to ensure sufficient tree planting and landscaping is done to provide proper buffering.
The remaining cluster of trees on the west side of the property will be maintained.