Pontiac car condo project breaks ground at old General Motors site
Pontiac — Forget basement "man caves." For the hard-core gear head, the future may be Brad Oleshansky's M1 Concourse project, where man and machine could soon co-exist in a private club of auto condominiums.
That dream moved a little closer to reality Wednesday with the groundbreaking on a former GM assembly plant site off Woodward Avenue and South Boulevard.
Oleshansky, CEO of the $60 million project, envisions a mixed use plan of 264 auto condominiums and a 11/2-mile race track on the abandoned and overgrown 87-acre parcel. The plant was closed and leveled in 2008.
The M1 Concourse, the most ambitious plan of its kind in North America, is advertised as a place where car aficionados and collectors can store and work on their prized vehicles in the comfort of a private climate-controlled garage, each with its own bathroom.
For $110,000, an owner will get a 600-square-foot condo with capacity for two to four vehicles. If you have the bucks, $250,000 will get you a 1,200-square-foot unit that can hold five to eight vehicles.
The performance track will be used to test and run cars, Oleshansky said before more than 200 people at the groundbreaking.
How popular is the concept? Phase one — the first 80 private garages — have sold out, Oleshansky said Wednesday.
"The track will be built by the end of this year and the first condos occupied and in use by spring," said Oleshansky, as earth moving machinery behind him ripped through old concrete left from the plant. "We're going to put Pontiac back on the map."
Phase two will include 57 more condos. If all goes according to plan, a third phase could see the sale of another 127 condos, the creation of an auto dealership, and some retail, office and restaurant space, he said. The total project is expected to create about 100 full-time jobs.
Oleshansky said while condo owners cannot live in the condos, they can spend a night there.
Car collector Mark Thomas of Birmingham bought one of the first auto condominiums shortly after they were available.
Thomas sees it as a place where he can store and enjoy some of his vintage collection — including a 1907 Rapid Pullman bus or 1940 GMC pickup truck, both built on the same site as M1.
The vehicles, which were on display Wednesday, are either too slow to take in everyday traffic, too fragile to subject to street conditions and potholes or do not qualify for state licenses to be driven on public streets.
"I'm a (car) hobbyist," Thomas said. "This way I can enjoy my hobby, drive my vehicle safely on private property."
Mayor Deidre Waterman described the project as yet another development in the city's "Diamond Corridor": "Stay tuned for what is yet to come."
County Treasurer Andy Meisner described the M1 project as an example of "what can happen when the public and private sector come together."
Bill Lee, CEO of the Strand Theatre about a half mile away in Pontiac's business district, described the M1 plans as an "absolutely fantastic project" that can only help to draw more investment and interest in Pontiac and his own efforts to reopen the long-shuttered Strand next year.
"It's another example of how Pontiac can once again be an entertainment center for Oakland County and the rest of Michigan," he said.
Mark Morante of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation said state officials support the plan because it is the type of forward thinking needed to keep investment and talent in Michigan.
" ... It helps create a place where people want to live, work and play," Morante said. "You don't do things like this, then talented people are going to leave (Michigan).
"This is an example of (development) rebirth of a site which was not just challenging but scary for many years."
Also announced Wednesday was $7.9 million to clean up and redevelop the site.
The funds, announced by U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, will pay for alleviating contamination, demolition, site preparation and infrastructure improvements.
The Associated Press contributed.
■Call (248) 594-6810.