2023 International Facility Of The Year: Mr.[B] – Costa Rica

Posted by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell on Feb 20, 2024 6:23:01 PM

Constructing self-storage in different countries is a challenge, but Mr.[B]’s Self Storage makes it look easy. Frederico Rolz, CEO, finds the process exhilarating and rewarding. Mr.[B] Self Storage continues to excel at not only acquiring land and navigating the permitting process in different countries, but also educating new areas about the benefits of self-storage.


Mr.[B]’s Curridabat Costa Rica won the International Facility of the Year, the second consecutive year the company claimed the title. Last year, Mr.[B] Self Storage won International Facility of the Year for Lope de Vega in the Dominican Republic.

Mr.[B] Curridabat is a modern building constructed to conform to the surrounding residential neighborhood. It has 52,926 rentable square feet and offers 519 units.


Mr B 1

Mr. Bodeguitas To Mr.[B] Self Storage

Mr.[B]’s was founded as Mr. Bodeguitas in 1997 in Guatemala City. “Our founding partners spent some time in school in the United States and thought there was a need for self-storage in Guatemala,” says Rolz. “We initially hired a market analyst to tell us if self-storage would be viable.”


The market analyst didn’t give the partners good news. “They told us ‘No,’ it wouldn’t be a good idea,” recalls Rolz. “We were adamant and went ahead anyway.” The company chose to begin the business in Guatemala City, the largest city in central America.


Their idea, which also included educating most government officials and the public about self-storage, led the company to expand to El Salvador in the early 2000s and Costa Rica in 2015. “We needed to view our company as a regional company to expand into the rest of Central America,” says Rolz.


Per Rolz, there is a prime market for the self-storage industry in central America, which is strategically positioned between North and South America and links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Panama Canal. The region is comprised of seven small countries: Guatemala, Costa Rica, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. Because the countries have a combined population of 48 million, which is larger than the state of California, and a GDP of 250 billion, which is comparable to South Carolina’s GDP, Rolz says it makes the region more than adequate for developing self-storage.


The company has evolved from first-generation buildings similar to first-generation facilities in the U.S., to modern third-generation buildings. “We started a new approach making our way into denser urban areas,” says Rolz. The marketing approach for the first years of the business was to seek commercial customers. While the company still markets to commercial customers, they’re finding a niche with residential customers in the newer facilities. Rolz says commercial vs. residential customers used to be about 80 percent to 20 percent respectively, most properties are split evenly now at 50 percent.


When Mr.[B]’s decided to expand into the Dominican Republic several years ago, they knew there would be some cultural differences. However, although all the countries in which it operates share the same base Spanish language, there are local and regional interpretations. “Mr. Bodeguitas is understood as a pub,” laughed Rolz. “So, we had to rebrand the company as Mr.[B] to avoid confusion.”

The rebranding effort was completed in 2020.


Acquiring The Land

Purchasing land for self-storage development is getting harder in the U.S., but the challenges American developers face today have always been an issue for international developers. Mr.[B]’s does extensive research to determine project viability. However, in many other countries, this information is not readily available. Rolz says the company conducted studies based on two variables: trade information and demographic information. “The first one was defined at different points in Costa Rica,” says Rolz. “This was matched against the demographic information. It was determined based on PIB per capita or income at the sector level with higher purchasing power.”


Mr B 5-1


The research determined the best possible location would be in the eastern part of the city. The search for land began in 2018. Rolz and his company thought they found the perfect plot. “Unfortunately, the deal couldn’t be closed, as a representative of the owner had signing authority but couldn’t close the deal, as the registered owner died without a will,” says Rolz.


Not to be deterred from the mission of developing another facility in Costa Rica, Mr.[B]’s hired a real estate broker who went door to door looking for another piece of land suitable for development. The eventual site was located just 300 feet from the previous property in which Mr.[B]’s expressed an interest.


Rolz recalls two sisters owned the land. The sisters and a nephew had signing power to sell the land, but the nephew’s brother stepped in after the acquisition, filing a lawsuit to void the transaction. After eight months of legal wrangling, the courts ruled in the sisters’ and Mr.[B]’s favor, clearing the way for development.

However, by the end of 2019, tax laws had changed significantly, further delaying the process; then 2020 and the COVID-19 Pandemic hit the world.


Proceeding With Curridabat

Although there were existing self-storage facilities in the country, Rolz says they still had to educate municipal officials about modern, urban self-storage. The permitting process is always arduous, but the permits were issued before the pandemic in 2020.


The original design was submitted with the Mr. Bodeguitas colors and design, so they had to be changed with the new brand colors. However, the interior and structural components weren’t changing, so Rolz and his team understood they wouldn’t have to submit a new design to the municipality.


“One of the neighbors went to the mayor and filed a complaint about the architecture,” says Rolz. “He didn’t want to see a metal box in the neighborhood.” The complaint initiated a new negotiation with the municipality. “Afraid of the neighbor’s complaint, they asked us to do a redesign adding as many windows as possible.”


Orlando Gei, whose company, ESTRUconsult, provided the architectural and structural engineering design, says they have been working with Mr.[B]’s for several years. “We know well what they want for their projects, but this one is in the middle of a residential area and the municipality wanted to increase the number of windows,” says Gei. “Most of the projects have the windows in the corridors, but some of them were placed in the storage areas.”


Gei and his team were able to create a design acceptable to the municipality, but these changes resulted in a cost overrun and delays in beginning construction.

The delays also created new challenges as construction was commencing during the beginning of the rainy season in February 2022. The first step was to demolish an existing house that sat on the property.


The differences in floor-level design made it possible for the project to have a basement, but that necessitated retaining walls. “The critical element to the foundations were the gravel columns, which are made by drilling the hole, then filling it with pebbles, and finally vibrating to be able to compact and improve the bearing capacity of the soil,” says Rolz.


The soil challenges are typical for the country, Gei says, but this project required 35 of the tiers, which is also referred to as a “deep soil solution.”


The soil, combined with the fact it was the rainy season, caused the ground on part of a neighboring property to sink in, which in turn caused a wall to partially collapse. The most renowned geotechnical engineer in the country was called in to help mitigate the issue. He advised to build an anchored wall and a self-nailing wall at the side of the street. “These foundations were a challenge within a challenge,” says Rolz. “We typically build the foundations and then everything above it, but never from top to bottom.” This resulted in another month delay in construction and another budget overrun as Mr.[B]’s decided to cover the neighbor’s repairs and expenses.


Design And Construction

Mr B 3Gei says Costa Rica is prone to massive earthquakes, so constructing a seven-story building with a basement required they use a steel EBF system. The design team and structural engineers opted for the system that would provide the most structurally sound building possible.


Concrete slabs were used over the metal deck. “We used the earthquake resistant frame and improved some molded links,” says Gei. “We always try to improve the structural system we use, and this was the first time this type of system was used.” The system required less concrete for the footings and less steel for the main structure.


Fire regulations in Costa Rica have become very stringent, requiring fire detection systems and intumescent paint. Moreover, Juan Brolo, regional development director for Mr.[B]’s, says the paint proved to be another challenge to the project. Paint cannot be applied if the humidity level is above 85 percent. Unfortunately, the tropical climate, combined with the rainy season, brought days with humidity levels at 95 to 100 percent. Hurricane Bonnie also brought days of high humidity, thus further delaying the project.


“We were finally able to install the paint and fire safety systems,” says Brolo.


Another Class-A Facility

The Curridabat building has a lot of green space, which has native plants to the region. Mr.[B] Curridabat also includes underground parking and another parking lot at street level. Both have direct access from the street and a completely roofed car park. Non-tenant visitors have parking access outside of the gated system, but tenants access the building through security codes on their mobile app.


The underground parking area has two unloading docks, which helps tenants easily move their goods from their vehicles and onto one of two elevators with a heavy load capacity of 4,000 pounds.


The first floor offers a strategically placed manager’s office, as well as coworking areas and a conference room that is free for tenant use. Gei says meeting and conference rooms are unique to Mr.[B] projects and help the company cater to their high number of commercial tenants. Another aspect unique to this project was the amount of natural lighting. “On this building, we used different layouts for different levels, but all of the levels have great natural lighting,” says Gei.


Mr B 4


Self-storage is still a relatively new industry in Costa Rica, and there are no companies within the country that can provide the hallway systems and doors. Gabriel O’Cariz, self-storage specialist with SS Cornerstone, based near Mexico City, Mexico, says his company has been working with Mr.[B]’s on several other projects.

The systems are constructed in Mexico and shipped to the job sites. “We were able to construct the system, deliver it on time and work with the other contractors on the site,” says O’Cariz. “Mr.[B] is always a good company to work with, our goal is to become a commercial ally with them, instead of just a supplier.” The branded colored doorways compliment the brightly lit hallways and shiny concrete floors.


Gold Standard Security And Systems

Security is vital to Mr.[B] properties as well. “Safety is important to us,” says Rolz. “It’s a big part of what makes our service special. We do everything we can to keep our tenants’ belongings safe.”


Mr B 6The Curridabat facility has guards on duty 24/7, along with a monitoring system on 69 cameras placed strategically throughout the facility. It includes an intercom, document reader, and access control.


OpenTech Alliance provides access control; the access control system allows customers to access the facility through their smartphones and allows Mr.[B] to better understand how their tenants are using the facility.


Gary Carland, channel development manager for OpenTech Alliance Inc. based in Phoenix, Ariz., says Mr.[B] has been a customer for several of its other projects in different countries. “They are located in various areas and countries, so the cloud software that gives them remote access is very big for them,” says Carland. “It gave them a lot of control without having actually to be local.”


The Curridabat facility used the Storage Genie app by OpenTech that allows touchless access, which Carland says is very popular in a world still dealing with COVID-19. “They had a unique situation on that facility with various levels, but we were able to provide all of the access control,” he says. “The ability to have OpenTech support was valuable to bring them online and keep them functional.”


Carland adds, “Everything that goes with Mr.[B]’s facilities always runs smoothly.” As for the tenants, they adjusted to using the Storage Genie app easily. “It’s a wonderful convenience,” he says, “and they appreciate it.”


Marketing Efforts Pay Off

This is the second facility for Mr.[B]’s in Costa Rica, so they repeated many of their efforts from their first campaign, including an extensive educational campaign about the benefits of self-storage to both commercial and residential customers, working with social influencers to promote the facility on social media, and a hiring a marketing firm that assisted with traditional marketing efforts.


The facility opened in February 2023. “We’re not even a year open and we’re exceeding occupancy expectations,” says Rolz. The facility is currently at 45 percent occupied, thus beating the three-year lease-up projection.


For all its marketing efforts, Brolo says the most effective of those efforts have been building good will among the community. “We try to do things in an ethical way, such as working with the neighbors and telling them we would make it right when we had the retention wall collapse,” he says. “We also installed 15 benches in the green area, and the community can walk their dogs and sit and enjoy the grounds. The community is very grateful.”


Mr.[B]’s isn’t quitting developing anytime soon. The company currently has 15 facilities in operation and six in the development phase.



Owner: MBI Management Corp.

Architect/Structural Engineer: Estruconsult

Builder: Eliseo Vargas Constructora

Property Management Software: Sitelink

Accounting System: SAP Business One

Access Control System: OpenTech Alliance

Doors and Interior System: SSCornerstone

Management Company: MBI Management



Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell is a freelance journalist based in the Ozark Mountains. She is a regular contributor to Messenger. Her business articles have also appeared in Entrepreneur, Aol.com, MSN.com, and The Kansas City Star.