Promotional video touts the new "car utopia" on Woodward Avenue in Pontiac: customizable private garages, 1.5 mile test track and auto focused businesses.
This winter's snow and ice can't melt fast enough for Brad Oleshansky, Birmingham car buff and founder of the planned 87-acre M1 Concourse off Woodward Avenue in Pontiac.
The sooner construction begins on the $60 million car condo development, aimed at auto enthusiasts, the faster the first 55 luxury garage units can open for gearheads who have paid up to $250,000 each to house their vehicles. We're talking serious car people, with seriously expensive cars — not shade tree mechanics. In addition to their luxury garages, owners will have use of a 1.5-mile on-site racetrack.
Oleshansky expects the development, which eventually will include a restaurant, office space and retailers and service companies catering to the car people, to open in the spring of 2016.
Plans for the development were announced in 2013. Over the past 18 months, Oleshansky has worked with architects, engineers, Oakland County and the city of Pontiac to arrange financing, develop a viable site plan, get the property rezoned and secure tax incentives.
"Given the number of auto enthusiasts here in Metro Detroit, people think this is a natural fit," said Oleshansky, who noted 70 percent of the first-phase garages already are sold. The M1 Concourse has room for a total of 254 units.
The site once was home to the General Motors Validation Facility, which was torn down in 2008. Prior to that, it was the site of the Pontiac West assembly plant. A significant cleanup is needed before construction of the M1 Concourse can begin.
To facilitate this, Pontiac City Administrator Joseph Sobota said the city authorized the site as a brownfield district. This will enable Pontiac to give tax breaks to the developer to pay for the cleanup.
"There's a lot of site work to be done," Oleshansky said. "Concrete is everywhere, and it has to be crushed and moved, plus other improvements. It's an extremely costly build."
'Project is cool'
The brownfield district designation also should help secure a $1 million cleanup grant and loan package through the Clean Michigan Initiative, managed by the state's Department of Environmental Quality. These funds typically go to municipal governments, but Pontiac's financial challenges have prompted Oakland County to step in and find a way to secure the cleanup dollars.
"This project is cool," said Deputy County Executive Matt Gibb. "We want to help them take advantage of every opportunity available close the deal, so they can break ground this spring."
Oakland Township resident Eitel Dahm, 75, is eagerly waiting for the M1 Concourse to open. The owner of Eitel Dahm Motor Group purchased a dual garage to house a number of his sports cars, which include Porsches and BMWs.
"This will be a great place for people who share a passion and interest in cars — old and new," Dahm said. He talked a neighbor into buying a garage at the site, too. "The location is fantastic, and it's easy to get there."
Dahm will decorate the loft above his garage to entertain friends and customers. He may not store his rare $1 million Porsche 918 Spyder there, but did not rule out occasionally driving the supercar on the site's racetrack.
According to the site plan, the M1 Concourse also will feature a restaurant, hospitality amenities, a performance/repair shop and other auto-related retailers. In addition, there is 50,000 square feet of office space.
Oleshansky said a soon-to-be-named national restaurant operator will open an eatery, plus a rooftop patio overlooking pit lane and the track. The restaurant also will have space for hosting special events.
A letter of intent also has been signed with an exotic performance car brand to occupy a separate building on the property, to be shared with an automotive marketing firm.
Oleshansky said an announcement with details on the tenants will be made within the next few weeks. Combined, the businesses should generate at least 100 jobs for Pontiac, he added.
"There's certainly nothing like this in Michigan," he said. "In fact, nothing of this scale has ever been built in this country. There are garage and race track facilities, but we bring it all together with offices and retail."
Initial discussions have been held with the organizers of the Woodward Dream Cruise to include the M1 Concourse in the annual August automotive lovefest. Oleshansky said he will renew the conversation when he knows the opening date of the development.
Concourse as gateway
"We have six acres of fairground available," Oleshansky said. "There's nowhere else on the route where so many cars can be parked and places for people to congregate."
Pontiac Mayor Deidre Waterman called the M1 Concourse a novel concept, and she expects it to become a destination site for the city. She was intrigued by its direct ties to Pontiac's historic alliance with the auto industry. Waterman also thinks M1 Concourse can become a gateway for people to visit Pontiac's nearby downtown restaurant and entertainment district.
"This is an important part of our plan to revitalize Pontiac," she said.
Sobota said as more businesses inquire about relocating to Pontiac, he wants to show them the M1 Concourse as an example of what can be done there, given the right vision.