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St. Petersburg condo complex for cars sells half its units before finish

Motocave won't open until next year, but car owners are already buying space in the car condo club.


  • By Jim Stinson
  • | 5:00 a.m. July 26, 2023
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Bowen Arnold is the principal of DDA Development, a Tampa firm building a 43-unit 'car condo' in St. Petersburg.
Bowen Arnold is the principal of DDA Development, a Tampa firm building a 43-unit 'car condo' in St. Petersburg.
Photo by Mark Wemple
  • Tampa Bay-Lakeland
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You've heard of the "man cave," a place where people gather their gadgets and TVs to be entertained.

You're heard of the "Batcave," where Batman parks his car.

Now St. Petersburg will soon have Motocave, a 43-unit luxury condominium complex for automobiles. Tampa-based DDA Development has started construction and sales of the units — and has sold 22 already, months before completion, which is expected in the first quarter of 2024, says Bowen Arnold, DDA Development principal and manager.

While it's DDA Development's first car condominium project, many in the region are likely familiar with the concept. The Motor Enclave, for example, opened at the end of 2022 along Interstate 75 and east of the Tampa International Airport. It has 300 units and only five are unsold, says CEO Brad Oleshansky, CEO of The Motor Enclave. (Oleshansky was a Business Observer Top Entrepreneur in May.) 

And 60 miles or so south, in Lakewood Ranch, the Luxe Dream Garage opened 65 units at the end of 2022. Even further south, in Naples, there is Naples Motor Condos, along Naples Boulevard.

Arnold says he believes more such units are needed, especially in St. Petersburg, where the firm got the idea after speaking to developers in the light-industrial sector. Motocave is in a light-industrial area at 2051 N. Gandy Boulevard, near an interchange with Interstate 275. The Motocave's neighbors include the St. Petersburg Housing Authority, the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg and Omnicell Inc.'s manufacturing plant. If cars could pick a neighborhood, this one would likely get a thumbs up.

So what's fueling the car condo trend in the region? Space, for one — or lack thereof. 

As Tampa Bay, Sarasota and Naples grow in population and wealth, the areas also grow in need for parking. Arnold says while many luxury condominiums and apartments — for humans — may allow one or two cars to be parked, that is sometimes inadequate for collectors, or sometimes just people who own three or more vehicles. Thus, the car condo concept.

And Arnold says St. Petersburg was missing out. The team chose the lot along Gandy Avenue in north St. Pete, which positions the car condos "equidistant" from downtown Tampa and the coastlines of St. Pete Beach.

"We thought the location was pretty good," says Arnold, who adds Pinellas County is probably good for another car condo development, if not one the size of The Motor Enclave. "Forty to 50 units sounds like a pretty good size to us."

The 43 units in the first go was a "test" for DDA Development, since the Tampa Bay market already had many units, and The Motor Enclave alone had hundreds on its 200 acres. And in many ways, DDA Development's car condo is a different type of community, much like housing communities.

Oleshansky says he was not aiming for "storage," but further options. The Motor Enclave's Disney for car enthusiasts-styled facility includes a 1.6-mile performance track. The $150 million development also has a private entrance to the airport, and hosts corporate events.

"We are mainly an events venue," says Oleshansky, whose units range in price from $400,000 to $2.5 million.

For DDA Development, the smaller club model has driven interest, too. Arnold says the 22 buyers have put down 30% deposits, crediting the location as a selling point. 

The Motocave units range in size, and most can handle more than one car. With tall ceilings, the car condos will also allow "lifts," or structures that allow cars to be stacked. The average condo cost is $315,000, and the property will eventually be run by a homeowners association.

What DDA Development hopes sets its car condo project apart is it's also a "car club." The development is targeting collectors who want to socialize. To help that along, DDA Development is building a central two-story clubhouse with a kitchen; wireless internet; a pool table area; and a lounge.

Arnold says that while he doesn't ask what cars will be stored, he expects to see Ferraris, Lamborghinis, RVs and other luxury brands. To make sure the collectors have access to services, Motocave will have a detailer on the gated property, Arnold says.

But will it work? It's no secret Americans love their cars, but do they love them enough to store them in a condo? Arnold says the shortage or limitations of parking in Tampa Bay is leading customers to such condos. The standard options of parking garages were not luxurious enough for some, especially as the incomes and wealth of the Tampa Bay region grows, Arnold says. Plus, some people just want to socialize with other car collectors, which is why Arnold expects owners to host parties and get-togethers.

Oleshansky agrees, adding that the automotive condo-and-socializing trend started in Europe in the 2000s. Now its revved up here. "People want personal, private spaces to enjoy their hobbies," says Oleshansky.

 

author

Jim Stinson

Jim Stinson is the Business Observer's Tampa Bay business reporter and editor, having previously written about business and policy in Washington, D.C.; Rochester, New York; Gary, Indiana; and Daytona Beach. He attended Boston University for business and Indiana University for journalism.

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