Larry Koland parks his cars in a place that looks more like a finished-off suburban basement than a garage.
On a recent weekday afternoon, Koland opened the overhead door to one of his two storage units at the Eagan Car Club, revealing a ’53 Mercury M-100 and a ’98 Porsche 911 in a sparkling space with couches, area rugs, a large TV screen and other comforts of home. There’s even a vintage Coke machine and a popcorn popper.
“We’ll watch movies, have club meetings,” said Koland, a 53-year-old former U.S. Air Force flight engineer who now works for Delta Air Lines. “We have our family Christmas party here in the clubhouse.”
Private garage condominiums are not new — AutoMotorPlex started the craze locally in 2008 in Chanhassen, and the first of four buildings at Eagan Car Club went up about five years ago.
But the demand for car condos is rising — AutoMotorPlex recently added a second location in Medina — as the storage industry evolves and downsizing baby boomers seek somewhere to store their prized possessions, Koland told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
“I bought this one for $80,000 before the first building here was even built,” he said. “The unit next to me is going for $175,000. That says something.”
For Koland, who owns two self-storage businesses, it says now is a good time to expand his portfolio. He plans to start construction in Rosemount this spring on the first of three buildings that will offer nearly 80 “luxury” private garage condos in a business park located off South Robert Trail, just south of County Road 42.
They won’t come cheap. A standard 1,000-square-foot unit — 25-feet wide by 40-feet deep — will go for $195,000 to $205,000. It will come finished with a gas-fired boiler, in-floor heat, electrical, drywall and fire suppression, and be roughed-in for a bathroom. A loft is also an option.
“They’ll leave a lot to the person’s imagination — they can do whatever they want to it, depending on what they collect and what they’re into,” Koland said.
A community clubhouse will have a kitchen, fireplace, deck and restrooms. A plaza will have outdoor seating for barbecues and car shows.
“We’re trying to make it community-centric,” he said.
Each condo unit will be individually owned, with the overall site falling under an association and managed by a professional management company.
Call the car condo concept what you want — a novelty or excessive — just not a man cave, Koland said.
“There are the man caves out there, but I don’t want that image in people’s minds, because we don’t want to build that,” he said. “We want something where the spouse is happy to come out to and where families can get together and hang out.”
Koland believes car condos are the next phase in the storage industry.
“It’s about downsizing without the hassles of renting,” he said.
In the early years of self storage, operators were a mom-and-pop business, he said. Now, large companies, many of which are real-estate investment trusts, own and manage millions of square feet of self-storage.
“Look at Public Storage, they’re huge, everywhere,” said Koland, noting how many cities locally and nationally have placed moratoriums on new self storage businesses until they fully understand the industry.
All of this makes growth in the traditional self storage business tough for the little guy, said Koland, who owns Inver Grove Heights Storage and More Space Self Storage in West St. Paul.
“Which leads me to this,” he said, referring to car condos. “It’s still kind of a niche, still storage, but more fun and all about lifestyle.”
But is it enough to make people shell out $200K and for Koland to make a return on his Rosemount project, which he estimates will cost $9 million? “I sure hope so,” the Inver Grove Heights’ resident said.
Rosemount Minnesota community development director Kim Lindquist said the project would bring a unique use to a business park that has been slow to develop.
As a whole, business parks are ever-evolving, she said.
“People are doing churches, breweries, that sort of thing, so it’s a little more of a mixed bag of uses nowadays,” she said.
The car condo project is scheduled to go before the planning commission for review in Februrary 2020 and the city council in March.
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