Old Kmart facility

The old Kmart facility on Cumberland Road, pictured above, is the prospective location of a proposed U-Haul facility.

BLUEFIELD — A major empty retail store in Bluefield will soon have a tenant.

Bluefield City Board on Tuesday approved a recommendation from the planning commission to grant a change in zoning at the former Kmart building to pave the way for a U-Haul showroom/storage facility.

City Attorney Colin Cline said it was a matter of changing the PUD (Planned Unit Development) for that property, which had been written for a more specific use.

AMERCO Real Estate Company applied to amend a previous PUD.

Jeff Bowles, marketing company president for U-Haul Co. of West Virginia, spoke to planning commission members at a public hearing last week on the application.

Bowles asked the commission to approve the change, which will allow U-Haul to convert the building from a retail space into a self-storage facility and U-Haul showroom. 

The commissioners unanimously approved the change and on Tuesday the city board agreed.

“What U-Haul is proposing to do in the old Kmart is to do truck and trailer sharing with the other people in the community, install custom trailer hitches and sell boxes; but our primary focus is going to be to offer a state of the art self-storage facility,” Bowles said. “The majority of (renovations) will be interior.”

Bowles said there are plans for climate-controlled self-storage units as well as heated units, plus there will be some outside storage units.

“That way we can offer the customer three options: outside for the convenience of loading into a pickup or something of that nature; interior unload with heat; and also interior rooms with full climate control,” he said.

The facility’s storage units will have security alarms, and each customer will have an access card, Bowles added.

“Everything will have security monitors on it,” he said. “The monitoring department at our headquarters in Phoenix, Ariz. That can see live views on the cameras at any of our facilities. If they get an alarm signal, that’s the first thing that they do is look at the cameras to see if there is anybody on premise. If there is anybody on premise, they will notify the store manager and the police department at the same time.”

Bowles said new U-Haul centers the size of the old Kmart generally start with 200 to 250 storage units. In the final phase of renovations, it could yield about 750 units.

The U-Haul center will need a store manager and assistant manager to get the project started. Eventually, the facility will need customer assistance employees, cleaners, and other people with about 10 to 15 employees.

“This is not just a U-haul rental place,” Mayor Ron Martin said, adding that will be “completely different” and look like the facilities the company has in Charlotte and other large cities.

AMERCO Real Estate Company, a subsidiary of U-Haul International and based in Phoenix, Ari., provides real estate and development services to the U-Haul System.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com


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