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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 20, 2006

Liviní so large, the cars get condos

By Dee-Ann Durbin
Associated Press

When car culture meets storage: Wealthy car enthusiasts are turning to car condos in crowded, urban areas to protect their collections. This is a rendering of a condo designed by DreamCar Carriage House.

DreamCar Carriage House

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David deMartino just bought a 760-square-foot, one-bathroom condo for $212,900 in the booming market of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He's ordered custom flooring and cabinets and a flat-screen TV, but he has no plans to move there.

That's because the condo is for his collection of cars and motorcycles.

The idea of buying a parking space is nothing new in crowded urban areas. A 180-square-foot space at the Brimmer Street Garage in Boston's exclusive Beacon Hill neighborhood just sold for $200,000, according to a garage manager.

But a parking space may be exposed to the elements, or next to a rowdy family's hulking sport utility vehicle. That's why some enthusiasts with money to burn are turning to car condos, where their vehicles will be stored in individual, weatherproof, air-conditioned garages with 24-hour security and concierge services.

"It's just peace of mind for my collection," said deMartino, 47, who plans to store a 1930 Ford Model A coupe, a 1961 Corvette convertible, a 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SL and three special edition motorcycles in his condo.

Three car-condo developments are scheduled to open in south Florida by the end of 2007, and developers say they've sold between 20 percent and 30 percent of the condos available.

Park Place Car Condo is opening a 224-garage facility in North Miami and a 179-garage facility in Fort Lauderdale and plans to open locations in New York, Las Vegas, Orlando, Fla., and Scottsdale, Ariz., in the next few years. Developer Kevin Buckley said Park Place condos start at $150,000 for a 620-square-foot condo for three cars and go up to $400,000 for an 1,800-square-foot condo that can house a bus.

Buckley said so far, typical buyers have been men in their late 40s to early 60s who have earned enough to buy the muscle cars that enchanted them in high school. Others plan to use their condos for boats and Jet Skis, he said.

"It's part car culture and then a lot of people who are just interested in safe, secure storage," he said.

Another car-condo development, DreamCar Carriage House, plans to open a 120-car facility in the Fort Lauderdale area next spring and is scouting for more Florida locations in Naples, Miami and Palm Beach, said Dayna Heit, a car collector who is developing the facility along with her husband. Prices range from $59,000 for a 300-square-foot condo to more than $200,000 for a 972-square-foot condo. Heit says an antique Rolls Royce and a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air are among the future tenants.

Buckley and Heit say Florida was a logical place to start their businesses because of the number of nearby high-rise housing developments with ocean views but little storage space.

"In most of the new urban high-rises, the average guy has 100 cubic feet in a little cage somewhere," said Buckley, who has previously developed high-end retail complexes. "You've had this massive redevelopment in affluent urban areas in the last five to 10 years, but the storage market really hasn't kept up with that."

Heit said buyers also consider car condos an investment.

"It's a piece of real estate as well as a place to put your car," Heit said. "It's very minimal compared to what you're paying for the homes down here."

Both Park Place and the DreamCar Carriage House will offer concierges to take care of details such as picking up and dropping off owners, tuning up the cars before a drive or washing and waxing. The Carriage House will have an onsite photography studio where owners can commission portraits of their cars. Park Place offers infrared cameras that will allow owners to view their cars 24 hours a day, and it will send a message to an owner's cell phone if security is breached.

Car collectors don't have to own a condo to get those kinds of services. At the Collectors Car Garage in Bedford Hills, N.Y., members can rent a parking space in a secure, environmentally controlled facility with concierge service for $345 a month.

Manager James Machinist says the rental concept seems to work for his customers. His facility, which has been open since January 2005, is over capacity with 191 cars ranging in price from $5,000 to $1.5 million.

"I liken it to a yacht club. Instead of having a slip, you have a car space," he said.