Northern Iron owner thinking condos ... garage condos

Storage condos, sometimes called “man caves” like the one from Columbus, Minnesota could be coming to the East Side. Scott Hamlett, owner of Northern Iron and Machine, is looking into putting some in on a lot he owns. (submitted photo)
Storage condos, sometimes called “man caves” like the one from Columbus, Minnesota could be coming to the East Side. Scott Hamlett, owner of Northern Iron and Machine, is looking into putting some in on a lot he owns. (submitted photo)
The storage condos on the East Side could end up looking similar to these shown in Columbus, Minnesota. (submitted photo)
The storage condos on the East Side could end up looking similar to these shown in Columbus, Minnesota. (submitted photo)
This empty, dusty lot could be host to some storage condos. Scott Hamlett owns the lot, along with Northern Iron & Machine across the street. Hamlett figures with the lot being so close to an industrial building, it makes more sense to turn it into a storage facility than to build housing. (Patrick Larkin/Review)
This empty, dusty lot could be host to some storage condos. Scott Hamlett owns the lot, along with Northern Iron & Machine across the street. Hamlett figures with the lot being so close to an industrial building, it makes more sense to turn it into a storage facility than to build housing. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Empty lot could be home to ‘man caves’

What do you do with a dirt lot across from a factory?

Scott Hamlett, owner of Northern Iron & Machine, took a good look at the ugly dirt lot across from his iron foundry, and an idea came to him.

“Why not turn it into a place for ‘man caves?’” he thought.

The lot sits on the north side of Northern Iron and Machine’s campus, on the northeast corner of Wells and Mendota streets.

For years, the lot has been the place where dust ends up when the foundry’s dust collectors malfunction.

“If I were to put residential (homes) back in there ... I might have a problem,” he said.

So, instead, he wants to develop his vacant lot into storage facilities. More specifically, a series of pole barn-type structures that people can buy, not rent, for storage.

They’d be structures, around six of them, that could be used as storage or for people to hang out and work on their hobbies. They can serve as workshops or home-away-from-home hangout zones.

Hamlett reports there are similar storage condos popping up in the greater Twin Cities area, so he figures there’s a market on the East Side. He’s also visited his friends’ storage condo in Texas, where some of the garages are decked out with couches, TVs and other items that turn the garages into rough-and-tumble living rooms.

There are some high-end storage condos up in Columbus, an Anoka County suburb, that come fully finished with heated floors, plumbing, electricity and lighting. These go for $100 per square foot.

In addition, owners pay an association fee for grounds maintenance and utility costs.

Joe Bazey, the developer of the garage condos in Columbus, said he started in 2008 with 20 units, and has since built a total of 58. He’s sold all but four (two of which are showcase models that aren’t for sale), and will build out more this summer.

He said most of the buyers are “car guys” who use the condos to store classic cars, boats, RVs, four-wheelers, and other things. Most are decked out with entertainment areas including couches and televisions, and some are decorated according to different themes. One even has a log cabin inside of it.

Hamlett said he imagines something similar for his own project, although perhaps a little more modest.

Bazey said he’d like to see storage condos go up in the Twin Cities urban core, and was even hoping to do a project like that himself.

He wondered if it might be hard to navigate potential zoning issues -- “it was tough enough just to get into Columbus,” he said.

Aside from the storage condos, Hamlett can’t figure out what else to do with the empty lot other than maybe build a residential condo.

But that might not be practical, because of the parcel’s close proximity to the iron foundry. He noted, “People give their homes more scrutinizing than they do storage condos.”

An employee of Hamlett’s presented his idea before the Payne Phalen District Council in mid-April. Though the jury’s out on whether they’ll endorse him, board members from the Payne Phalen District Council’s Community Planning and Economic Development board gave the project positive feedback.

Presuming he gets the go-ahead from neighbors, he’ll start looking into pricing and pursue approval from the city for the project.

Roger Saylor, an employee of Hamlett’s, noted that the project is very early on, and it could be that it fails before they even approach the city, because they still have to look into utility easements, among other considerations.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.
 

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