Seizing on a need in the passionate car community, a Michigan developer aims to create a premium experience for car lovers across the region. It’s an expensive undertaking.
The line of people waiting to tell Brad Oleshansky he was nuts for wanting to build a high-end haven for car enthusiasts in a Detroit suburb a decade ago was long. Even racing legend and truck rental entrepreneur Roger Penske was on that line, Oleshansky recalls.
“I had people all over saying: ‘You’re crazy. This will never work,’” Oleshansky says. “No one would invest in it. No one would fund it.”
“The biggest thing people were saying,” he adds, “is that this was Detroit: If this is going to work, somebody would’ve done it already.”
Although far from an overnight success, Oleshansky’s vision eventually came to fruition. The project, M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Mich., has since grown into a 87-acre auto adventure land. It includes more than 250 private garages — car condos on steroids — and a 1.5-mile performance track. Beyond the nuts and bolts, one individual mark of Oleshansky’s ability to turn doubters into believers? Penske himself now owns a unit at M1.
A former entertainment industry lawyer based in Beverly Hills, with stints at Disney and Sony, Oleshansky sold his interest in M1 two years ago. With lessons learned from that project, Oleshansky, who has also been in health care marketing and publishing, is now on another motor mission: to create and deliver an even better version of M1 in Tampa, on a 200-acre site next to the Tampa Executive Airport, near both Interstate 4 and 75.
Dubbed Motor Enclave, the $100 million project includes a 35,000-square-foot corporate events center; at least 300 car storage condos, ranging from 629 to 2,170 square feet; a 1.6-mile performance driving circuit designed by Formula 1 track architects and engineers with Hermann Tilke; a 30-acre off-road experience where drivers, according to a Motor Enclave membership prospectus, can put their “vehicles/parts through the rigors they were designed for” over rocks, logs, gravel, formed concrete and steel structures, technical obstacles and more; and a vehicle dynamics pad designed for outdoor and corporate events, car shows, auctions, cars-and-coffee events and swap meets. Motor Enclave also includes a membership offering.
Taken in total, Oleshansky says Motor Enclave is akin to Disney for car lovers. Scheduled to open in summer 2022, the project will create 50 jobs, not including the hundreds for construction and event support. “It’s a place where people can come together to share their love and passion for cars,” says David Singer, a Tampa attorney with Shumaker who worked on the zoning and land approval side of the project.
A self-described accidental real estate developer, Oleshansky says he chose Tampa after an extensive study on the demographics and car-ownership and registration data in the region, stretching to Orlando and Sarasota. And Oleshansky, 50, loved Tampa so much that he’s now in the process of moving his family and Motor Enclave headquarters to the region. He envisions opening several other Motor Enclave locations nationwide and already has projects in the works in Nashville, Tenn., and Columbus, Ohio.
Going back to 2011 and his experiences with financing for M1, Oleshansky also realizes the concept can be hard to prove — on paper at least. “I don’t really consider myself a real estate developer,” he says. “These projects don’t always pencil out.”
But the passion customers have for M1, Oleshansky counters, make the numbers work. Proof comes in pre-sales of Motor Enclave, where through mid-March he had sold 150 car condo units at an average price of $350,000. It took him five years to reach that level in Michigan, he says, and he had to hustle just to get to 80 sales, which allowed him to get a bank loan. “The conversion rate [in Tampa] has been three times what I projected,” he says, adding that some of the buyers in Michigan both have both already bought Tampa units and invested in the project. Oleshansky says he’s already raised $30 million toward the project completion.
‘I was $1 million in before I even had approvals.’ Brad Oleshansky, Motor Enclave
With interest and pre-sales revved up, one of the biggest challenges early on was obtaining land use and zoning approvals. That took at least two years and, Oleshansky says, was costly — with no guarantee county officials would sign off on the changes to the site, mostly farmland. “I was $1 million in before I even had approvals,” he says.
County officials signed off on the zoning and other changes in late January. “It was a very complex approval process with a complicated site,” Oleshansky says, “but the beauty of this is we are taking a dead piece of property and turning into a big taxable asset.” That’s not only the project but the condo owners, too.
Oleshansky expects to break ground on the project in the summer.
Born in Detroit, Oleshansky was raised in car culture. His dad, he says, “was a huge car guy” who built custom automobiles in the family garage. He also attended the famous Woodward Dream Cruise classic car show on Woodward Avenue in Detroit with his family while growing up, riding in a 1932 Ford Phaeton.
During his legal career, and after that running a health care marketing agency and the health care publishing arm of industry giant Meredith Corp., Oleshansky regularly saw a void in the car industry. “I had looked all over the country, all over the world,” he says, “and found storage and a lack of community are two big needs.”
That led to M1. Since then, other car storage concepts have popped up nationally, including Naples Motor Condos in Collier County and Wheel Base Premium Garage Condos in Sarasota. The Tampa project goes even further, with the event space and membership model. On the latter, there’s a one-time $30,000 membership fee, then $6,000 per year. Perks include track time on all three options and other access points.
Singer, the attorney for the project, believes the combination of the central location and multiple uses will make a Motor Enclave not just a hit for Oleshansky but for economic development in Tampa. “There aren’t many places like this in the country,” he says. “We think this will put Hillsborough County in a great position to track some high-end auto-based tourism.”