Gearhead Homes in the News

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Proposed car condo complex in Huron Township would feature longest road course in Michigan

Published: Thursday, July 21, 2016
By Keith Salowich
For The News-Herald

A $10 million undertaking is in the works for one Ypsilanti car enthusiast who is hoping to build a car condo complex complete with the longest road course in all of Michigan on the site of the former Pinnacle Race Course in Huron Township.

John Ottino, a competitive race car driver and developer of Heritage Farms Motorplex, hopes to bring car condos to the Motor City area for the first time on 312 acres of land in the township.

A car condo is an area to shelter, display and work on cars away from the house, and Ottino’s proposed complex will offer the added benefit of a 2.5-mile road course to test drive cars. The finished complex will have 17 buildings and 522 car condos ranging in size from 525 square feet to 2,400 square feet.

“We’re looking for car people,” Ottino said. “We’re not necessarily just looking for guys who have Maseratis, Lamborghinis or Ferraris. I always tell guys: ‘I don’t care if you race lawnmowers.’ If that’s their passion and they need a place, then we can help them out.”

Ottino owns two cars and snowmobiles, and quickly runs out of garage space that he also must share with his wife. This shortage of space inspired Ottino to develop the plans for Heritage Farms Motorplex.

Utilizing his 1977 Ferrari 308 GTB and his 1967 Hemi GTX as eye candy to draw in fellow car enthusiasts, Ottino plans on showing his cars and spreading the word about his coming complex at over 80 car shows this year.

“I get more response out of women at car shows for the car condos because it gets all of the stuff out of their garage and away from their home,” he said. “They can park in their garage in the wintertime and the guys can have their cars and motorcycles at a separate location where they can have their buddies over and spill beer on the floor. That’s why a lot of women are interested, because they get their garages back.”

Ottino drew much of the inspiration for this project from an existing car condo complex in Minneapolis, called the AutoMotorPlex.

“They actually started in 2007 and I watched their progress, which was really interesting because it was the height of the recession, but people were still buying car condos like they’re popcorn,” he said.

In addition to the condos and track, a 4,000-square-foot clubhouse featuring an office, meeting room, fireplace, catering kitchen, swimming pool and patio overlooking the track also is being planned. Ottino also has heard from museums hoping to relocate pieces of automotive history to the complex upon its completion.

“We want to make it a country club type of atmosphere based on automotive and racing themes,” Ottino said. “It’s going to evolve into a lot of different things as we go. This complex could end up growing to be quite unique for the state of Michigan.”

Ottino teamed up with Brian McNamara of Wolverine Lake, founder of Gearhead Homes, who sells homes with a focus on large garages for working on cars and other machines.

“It just kind of clicked,” Ottino said. “What I’m doing and what he’s doing is basically the same thing, so it was a natural team to put together. We can complement each other because we basically have the same idea. We’re just doing it a little bit differently.”

McNamara is just one more member of a team that prides itself on a passion for cars.

“The people that are involved in putting this whole thing together and selling the car condos are passionate about the whole thing,” McNamara said. “We’re all car enthusiasts, so this is actually a passion for us and we’re not just out to make a buck.”

The partners envision a community of individuals brought together by a mutual love for automobiles and who befriend and help each other.

“If they want to visit with their buddies, they’ve got all these other car condos in the same facility with like-minded people,” according to the partners. “If somebody has a question like: ‘Hey I’m trying to work on my car, or I’m trying to weld this or I can’t get this right,’ well there might be somebody right next door that’s good at that kind of thing.”

However, the importance of the community beyond the complex also was considered by the pair, who already are establishing a nonprofit charity program.

“What we’re trying to do is give back to the community,” Ottino said. “For each car condo that we sell, we’re going to give $500 to our Vets, Pets and Kids Program. It’s all part of us helping out the community and that’s the whole idea. I don’t want to be just making money for myself and that’s the end of it. It’s a responsibility to the area.”

Through his travels touring other car condos and discussions with owners, Ottino has seen everything from marble-lined interiors full of luxury cars to an indoor virtual driving range and basketball courts.

“You’re only limited by your imagination,” he said.

Heritage Farms Motorplex is still accepting reservations in the form of a refundable $500 deposit. Those interested in reserving their own car condos can reach Brian McNamara at 248-974-6003, or visit the website.