P4-2018-07 – Driving in a Dream to M1 Concourse
By John Khami June 8, 2018
“If you can Dream it, it can be done.” — Walt Disney
M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan is the go-to spot for auto related events in Michigan. How could a dream, a concept of separate garages where collectors store their cars, live with them in the same unit sleep next to or above their favorite models have caught the imagination of so many in a few years. It is a project unlike any other in the country. Brad Oleshansky, the founder and CEO of M1 Concourse agreed to an interview.
Brad has worked on cars since his Dad had a 1923 Model T Hot Rod. A 1932 Ford Phaeton was the next project and in High School, Brad had a 1955 Chevy Bel Air. He attended Ithaca College in New York and wanted to be in the film industry. Moving to Hollywood, Brad wanted to make movies.
“But instead of making movies, I ended up making coffee,” Brad said with a smile. “So I went to law school and for 12 years I was an entertainment lawyer representing companies like Disney and Sony. But I still liked cars and wanted to feed that interest. “
In 2004 he returned to Michigan as Chief Operating Officer of Big Communications, a successful pharmaceutical marketing company. Brad’s idea of working in a garage with other garage owners nearby continued to grow. Brad sold the company and spent months of research where he focused his interest on a concept he discovered called, “Car Condos.” Designed around storage, the greater attraction for Brad was in building a community full of people with the same passion for all things automotive.
The idea was simple. “The garages would be used on the weekends like people use their places when they go up north,” Brad said. “There would be private owners for private uses. But I wanted it to be more. “
Sterling Heights? The East Side? Further west? The target area turned to Woodward Avenue, Michigan 1 or M1. A site in Pontiac was mentioned and Brad hesitated. He toured the property several times and his imagination took off like his old Bel Air. A racetrack, meeting rooms, restaurants, a central public meeting area. Brad could see the uses around him, where the track would be located, the garages, the buildings and pads around the land. His dream of Car Condos with a racetrack would be along this Woodward site in Pontiac.
“The city supported the idea and embraced the concept,” Brad said.
The site was and is on the corner of South Boulevard and Woodward. A company called Rapid Motors in 1905 used it. Three years later Rapid Motors merged with Reliance Motor Trucks and another group called Crescent Motors. 1n 1908, the three companies became General Motors Truck. For the next century, GM used the site for manufacturing, testing and quality assurance. The foundry with a thick basement floor of four feet remained along with the powerhouse building to the North. The 87 acres were on Woodward with M-59 and I -75 expressways a few miles to the south.
General Motors declared bankruptcy in June 2009. The land was available through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court through Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy code.
“I had to pitch my idea for Car Condos to the feds,” Brad said. “They wanted me to meet their criteria of increasing the tax base, creating jobs by making a good development. When we looked at this site, it was covered in concrete. We needed approvals and clearances from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Oakland County and of Pontiac. “
Brad got it done and acquired the property in 2014.
The State of Michigan declined to assist with financing, as the concept was new and unproven. However, Brad devised a plan to pre-sell the first 80 units, representing $15,000,000 of the $20,000,000 of capital needed to build Phase 1 of the project, including all of the site work and the 1.5 mile track. Buyers signed a purchase agreement with a 1/3 deposit of the purchase price into escrow at Comerica bank. If all 80 units were not sold in 6 months, Oleshansky would return everyone’s money.
Brad embarked on 6 months of promoting the concept at car shows, public events and car dealerships.
“I had a large scale model of one of the garages built and moved that around from event to event pitching my idea. Once a few buyers committed, more followed and by the end of the 6 months I was only a few units shy of the goal,” Brad said. “Fortunately, my partner committed to purchase the remaining units, which I was able to promptly sell right after the deadline.”
“In June of 2015, we started by crushing the concrete on the property. That took six months including the underground work. We used what we crushed everywhere we could including under the track and at the pads. We left two and a-half acres alone because it was the foundry basement floor. It’s four feet thick. Today we use it as the skid pad where we have vehicle testing, auto-cross and public events like cars and coffee.”
“When we broke ground, car people came out to our property. It became a place for people to gather, to meet and greet and that was all before we built the first units. That’s when we knew the interest was strong.”
“ We don’t cut corners,” Brad said. “We give 30 year warranties on our buildings that are pre-engineered. We have metal roofs, double glass windows on the garage doors. Ceilings are 21 to 23 feet tall and the spaces are 38 feet deep and two stories high.”
There are 16 units with rooftop patios and at this writing; one of those units remains available for purchase. The individual units range in size from 500 to 6000 square feet. There are double units and some units are set up so you drive in one door and out the other.
In three years, $45,000,000 has been generated in sales for 170 garages. Prices begin at $150,000 for the smaller units. Interiors are built-out per user. Owners pay homeowners association dues, property taxes and utilities. There is U.S. Mail delivery and owners can sleep in the units but cannot use the garage as a legal address. Owners gain access to the Champion Motor Speedway through the M1 Motorsports Club which has a one time initiation fee of $20,000 and annual membership fee of $3,750. Club members receive 6-7 hours per week of track time.
Today, M1 Concourse is the largest Car Condo Community in the world. It includes 15 buildings with the individual units. Additional units are planned for 2019. The 30 foot wide course has a length of 1.5 miles and includes 11 turns. Tire barriers are set in the corners with an LED Flag System used on the track. Closed circuit monitoring is everywhere on the property with a secure, gated entrance for the owners. The official M1 Concourse sponsors are Champion, Hagerty Insurance and Dodge.
The next phase of development includes an auto-centric and entertainment focused retail village with public access directly from Woodward Avenue. Tenants will include restaurants, car dealerships, auto service providers and other auto related businesses.
“People are happy coming here because they have a place to enjoy their passion for all things automotive,” Brad said. The best part of the business is being surrounded by people who are enjoying the fruits of their labor and also providing access for the general public. If you have a $500 classic or a $1,000,000 modern supercar, M1 is for everyone.”
A dream come true.
M1 Concourse is located at:
1 Concourse Drive, Pontiac, MI 48341
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