Condos for car nuts look to be hot sellers

Phil Berg
Car Culture
View Comments

On the face of it, car nut visionary Brad Oleshansky’s M1 Concourse car condo development near downtown Pontiac, where construction broke ground June 24, seems to follow the formula of a multi-use shopping center with an automotive theme.

Makes sense. This is Detroit; you can buy dental floss here with an automotive theme.

As we reported last month, the finished M1 Concourse will be a cluster of 264 garages, a 1.5-mile racetrack, shops, restaurants and service centers. The first 80 $110,000-$250,000 four-to-eight-car car condos have already been sold; the rest of the project will take five years. Yet Pontiac Mayor Deidre Waterman admits three years ago her response to the idea was: “Car condos? What are those?”

When the project was announced in 2013, GM engineer Steve Wolf was the first in line to buy one of the car condos. That’s not just the normal car nut fever we’ve seen from the local fans who mob Woodward Avenue’s Dream Cruise every August. This is serious.

“Given the fact that it’s the auto capital of the world, I doubt that there is another place that has the intensity of Detroit,” says Wolf, now retired. “Car people normally migrate toward each other,” adds Wolf, who has three collectible Corvettes. “I’ve lived in southeast Michigan my whole life. My first car was a 1960 Falcon, and I turned it into a drag car. I haven’t raced in 10 years, because of my career. Now I’m intending to get more into road racing.”

M1 Concourse founder Oleshansky noticed several years ago that car condos had sprung up in other cities, from the ultra luxurious Thermal Club south in Palm Springs and Park Place near Fort Lauderdale, to the private racetrack facilities at the Autobahn Country Club outside Chicago and Monticello Motor Club in upstate New York.

Finally, Oleshansky says the success of the AutoMotorPlex near Minneapolis and its thriving car-nut community convinced him that car condos would be a hit in Motor City. The numbers: All of AutoMotorPlex’s 120 car condos sold out in five years, while Oleshansky’s research shows the Twin Cities’ classic car population at just a few thousand. Southeast Michigan’s classic car population is somewhere more than 50,000, he says. So maybe his dream for 264 car condos could be an underestimation of their popularity here.

So I see a movement going on here that’s much bigger than just a bunch of guys collecting toys and making a place for them. I’ve spent the last 10 years visiting more than 200 car-nut garages for a number of magazines and books, and to me car nuts seem to be searching for a community. They seem less likely to hide away alone in a garage at home, and venture into places rife with other car nuts.

“I envision becoming friends with a lot of the other owners and helping them on their cars, too,” explains Wolf, who adds, “I don’t golf. A lot of my friends are always trying to get me to golf, it’s just not my cup of tea. If a person doesn’t have grease under their fingernails, I probably can’t relate to them. I’m an engineer by trade, we tend to get stereotyped as being anti-social, of being the nerd.”

Wolf’s plans for his car condo include a loft for an entertainment area, looking down onto the car projects. He intends to work on his Corvettes late enough into the evenings that he could make use of a planned pull-out bed and spend a night or two. “Technically you don’t have to pick up and go home,” he says. Oleshansky says the permits from the city of Pontiac allow 24/7 activities, including sleeping, as long as none of the units are claimed as residencies.

“My wife wasn’t totally on board with buying this because she pretty much thought she would be a widow once I got it,” Wolf says. “I think she’s resigned herself to the fact I’ll be spending a lot of time there, but we intend to use it as a place to have friends as well. She wanted to see me be able to fulfill a dream once I retired to work with my cars.”

And I see a large and growing group of formerly solo car nuts being able to make a community like we’ve never seen before.

View Comments