With a retinal scanner nicknamed "Iris" that guests must pass to get into a wine vault, the new C3 Modern Storage in Chandler is not the typical self-storage complex.
C3, which stands for "clean, cool and convenient," is the brainchild of Vivo Partners development firm. The four-level, 114,000-square-foot building is located southeast of Gilbert and Germann roads in the Chandler Airpark.
With its upscale architecture, the facility is aimed at overcoming cities' historic bias against self-storage businesses, which usually are relegated to more industrial areas, said Devan Wastchak, Vivo managing partner and Chandler resident.
"This is a prototype facility for the next generation of storage facility," Wastchak said. "If you look from the outside, it could be in a center with office buildings."
Jodie Novak, a senior city planner, said it's an innovative concept.
"Their building does have the appearance of an office building," she said. "Chandler was very open to that concept. We're always looking for unique and creative ways of doing development."
The facility was erected about seven months ago on the site of Vivo's planned 40-acre Watermark at Chandler Airpark development. Right now, the site also houses an adjacent office building. Retail, restaurants and office buildings are planned for the remaining 30 acres, Wastchak said.
"We spent several years coming up with the concept," he said.
In the course of the company's research, it found that women were overwhelmingly influential in the decision to rent storage space, Wastchak said. The storage center's large lobby, with its sleek design and long reception desk, is meant to be familiar and reassuring, he said. It also features an entertainment area with a flat-screen television and video game console.
"It's more like a hotel where people would be more comfortable with the circumstances," Wastchak said.
Judy Verkuilen, who manages the facility with her husband, Greg, said potential customers often are surprised by the attention to detail.
"The first thing they say is, 'Is this storage?'" she said.
The wine vault, accessible from the lobby, is kept at a constant temperature of 53.2 degrees, she said. Visitors peer into the retinal scanner, which responds in a woman's voice to permit or reject access, based on whether the visitor's eyes are in its database.
Each of the vault's 37 cabinets, with individual alarms, is capable of storing up to 220 bottles. About half of them are rented, Verkuilen said. Renters are able to access their wine cabinets 24 hours a day.
"Some people will come in and rent one and then come back and rent three or four more," she said.
The storage center doesn't track the value of the bottles, she said.
"We don't know what's in there," Verkuilen said.
There is also a secure vault behind a steel door with two dozen gun storage lockers and more than 200 safety deposit boxes. Wastchak said it has an advantage over banks in that C3's vault is accessible for longer hours and on weekends.
He said the leasing rate for the facility's 873 air-conditioned storage units, of varying size, has been good.
"In good times it's a luxury," Wastchak said of self-storage. "In tough times it becomes a necessity."
The facility has a conference center, copier and Internet access, as well. Some businesses have chosen to cut overhead by storing inventory in a storage unit and conducting meetings in C3's business center, Wastchak said.
"It can be an extension of a business," he said.
Wastchak said the firm chose Chandler for the city's high per-capita income.
"We like Chandler because of its demographic," he said. "It was, quite frankly, an underserved area."
But even with the added amenities, rental prices remain competitive, and the company often will match competitors' prices, he said.
"We're just looking for the economy to come back before rolling these out," Wastchak said.