Self Storage Facility Designs Evolve as Urban Needs Change

As the storage needs of increasingly dense urban communities change, the self storage industry has seen increased interest. Jackson | Main Architecture notes a surge in the number of renovations, adaptive re-uses, and atypical lot configurations for self-storage facilities. These urban infill projects cater to the needs of clients living in smaller quarters, offering convenient access and more pleasing design than typically seen in suburban communities.

“The sprawling rows of rectangular boxes built on greenfield sites aren’t an option in urban areas,” says JMA architect Robin Murphy. Land is valuable, and the urban user needs are unique. Modern environmentally sensitive self storage designs take advantage of existing underutilized industrial and commercial buildings and lots that have been passed over by other development.

Get Space PJON, Portland, Oregon

Get Space PJON, Portland, Oregon

Get Space PJON (lobby/office)

Get Space PJON (lobby/office)

Murphy’s firm, Jackson | Main Architecture, has designed a number of these storage facilities in Portland as well as the Seattle area. The Get Space in the Johnson Creek neighborhood (PJON) is an adaptive re-use of a single story, tilt-up concrete warehouse. The original footprint was expanded both westward and eastward, while the tilt-up walls of the original warehouse were retained and two new levels were added along with a new roof. The Get Space on York Street was designed as a very dense, new six-story storage facility built on a site that had been previously used for fill. Get Space on Division street is a three-story facility built from the ground up with an internal drive-through feature to cater to the unique urban needs of the neighborhood. Another project on Powell is a planned renovation of an existing single-story warehouse space built into a five-story self storage building. This project retains the tilt-up walls of the original warehouse building.

The Powell and York (PORK) projects were efficiently designed utilizing an alternate materials and method option in the City of Portland. At the time the city had adopted the 2014 Oregon Structural Specialty Code (OSSC) based on the 2012 IBC. Jackson | Main Architecture was able to convince the city that using a section from the 2015 International Building Code, that allows a podium to be built under a self-storage building, is both safe and more efficient then the alternatives available in the current code. Based on this AMM, these two buildings were both built to a high standard, and at considerably less expense.

Get Space PORK, Portland, Oregon

Get Space PORK, Portland, Oregon

Interbay Self Storage, Seattle, Washington

Interbay Self Storage, Seattle, Washington

In Seattle, the firm has worked to change the way people think about storage facilities with increased focus on the exterior design elements and environmentally sensitive design. For a new facility in the Interbay neighborhood of Seattle, Jackson | Main designed what they call a “jewel box” facility, a colorful and multi-faceted building located in an industrial valley between two residential neighborhoods. The final design utilized opaque and transparent elements to provide a glimpse into the building function. The result was an award-nominated facility that helps raise the standard for storage facility design.

Jackson | Main Architecture is a diverse architectural design firm based in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square. The firm was founded in 2015 when two established Seattle firms merged and expanded into Kansas City. Jackson | Main focuses on architecture, master planning, and interior design for a range of clients within the commercial, residential, industrial, mission-critical, institutional, healthcare, and workplace sectors.

What is Interior Design?

By Adrianne Martin & Veronica Finney

Jackson | Main Architecture’s interior design leaders saw a need to educate clients and even other design professionals on how their services and expertise benefit projects.

What is interior design?

“Interior design is the art and science of enhancing the interior of a building to achieve a healthier and more aesthetically pleasing environment for the people using the space.”

If it has walls, it has an interior! Jackson | Main promotes integrating interior design services for ALL projects at varying degrees, established at a project’s kick-off. The benefits of integrating interior design early on include:

  • A Cohesive Product

  • Design Efficiency

  • Keeping the “Big Picture” and End Users Central to Design Decisions

Want to learn more about Interior Design? What’s the difference between a designer and a decorator?

Check out our presentation!

And always remember, “Check yourself before you wreck the shelf!”

Modular Design

Affordable housing shouldn’t sacrifice design or function. With the vision of integrating design, technology, and sustainability, Jackson | Main has designed modular multifamily, small efficiency dwelling units, senior living, and mixed-use communities. As one of the most prolific modular designers, we offer the time-saving efficiencies and strong relationships with manufacturers that only come with experience.

Our experience means we understand how to design for factory-built products, and serve as leaders during the installation and construction phases. We have significant experience working with design review boards in many jurisdictions, and our buildings and are viewed as welcome additions to local communities.

Using Virtual Reality to Visualize Design Concepts

To elevate the client design experience, JMA integrates virtual reality software and hardware into our services. VR allows our clients to visualize how conceptual massing relates to the site, shows changes in materials in real time, and aids in creating exciting marketing materials.

Recently, our client Vibrant Cities utilized this feature to visualize two of their current multifamily projects, Brio and Zeal. By allowing the client to move around the space and through the building, JMA was able to provide a collaborative design experience.

Check out the images below for a glimpse at how VR helped Vibrant cities.

A New Approach to Healthcare, Rooted in Design

The current healthcare system represents a top down approach to addressing the needs of a community. As such, the structures created are fixed and rigid they don’t provide adaptability. They focus on individual care rather than the care of a community. Healthcare is isolated from the communities its participants belong to, and not able to engage the real environment that everyday life occupies.

JMA’s team created a conceptual design to break these norms, placing care at the center of the served community, in facilities that can adapt to the needs of the population, in environments that sync with everyday life.


The Cube Design

Multiple light and compact module Cubes can be delivered to a site with one truck bed. This module is

complete with a fully structured skeleton to support itself, other cubes, and (when secured to other cubes) the ability to cantilever. All external facing sides provide an air/water barrier, meaning as soon as it is delivered and oriented on the site/structure the siding can be applied.

Each panel of the cube is modular allowing for thousands of combinations while also streamlining design decisions for efficiency and necessity.





Flexibility allows the facility to take on many forms, including a greater connection to nature, communal meeting spaces and the ability to change and grow as the future demands.

Our concept, created as part of the “Breaking Through” Design competition, is one manifestation of how this system could be applied to numerous sites. We have created a unique and purposeful facility for a specific population, called Community3.




The Facility Design

The building expands and contracts, adding valuable space when needed, and collapsing unused spaces to create open community spaces. The module can be reconfigured to create additional space and address various community needs.

COMMUNITY3 encourages community involvement, and provides a warm and inviting space to receive care, while creating a seamless connection to the exterior.

Unreinforced Masonry Buildings in Pioneer Square

Addressing un-reinforced masonry buildings (URM) during renovation can be a big challenge. JMA has designed many solutions, including retrofits for our own office. Watch this video from The Seattle Channel to see what experts are saying about buildings in Pioneer Square, and how we’ve retrofitted our very own Maud Building.

Affordable Housing


There is affordable housing and housing that people can afford. JMA believes that neither should sacrifice design or function.

We ensure quality, well-thought facilities by harnessing the latest in design, technology, and sustainability techniques, and utilizing an Integrated Project Delivery approach.