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Man and Machines

By Jarvis Holliday

Posted: Tuesday, Jun. 26, 2012

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The bounty of car collectors and enthusiasts around Lake Norman will soon have a unique place to hangout and show off their four-wheeled beauties. Edward Bongart is creating The Auto Country Club, with plans to break ground on the multifaceted facility later this year.

Bongart says he plans to build dozens of garage condos at the 27-acre site in Huntersville. Clients are able to purchase individual units, ranging from 576 square feet to 1,920 square feet, and priced from $59,900 to $199,900. Each unit will have a 20-foot ceiling, so owners will have the option to build lofts at the top, which Bongart refers to as man caves, and customize them as they see fit.

“Sometimes people want to get away and have a place to relax,” Bongart says. “[The loft] is important because it gives members the opportunity to enjoy their cars without other distractions that you’d have around the house.”

Far more than just a place for enthusiasts to store their cars, the Auto Country Club will also serve as a social hub, sort of like the ultimate garage-away-from-home where you can hang out with buddies and talk shop. Bongart says when complete, the club will include a spacious promenade, designed for auto shows, memorabilia auctions, corporate gatherings, and charity events.

“We’re trying to create the camaraderie aspect,” he says.

Other amenities will include an indoor kitchen, an outside grilling area, a lodge-style fireplace, a lounge area, conference room, and indoor and outdoor dining areas. Bongart has also worked out an arrangement with The Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway for his members to use the track several times a year.

Owners won’t be able to live in their lofts continuously, but the town of Huntersville has approved for them to stay overnight in their lofts up to 30 days per year.

The loft aspect of these facilities seems to be resonating with prospective buyers, who will become members of The Auto Country Club upon purchasing a unit. Bongart plans to build out the property in four phases. He expects construction on phase one to be completed by next spring.

Of phase one’s 32 units, about half have been reserved. He says he’s pleased with the early enthusiasm for the project, especially considering this was a concept he first started investigating about six years ago while living in Florida, but had to shelve the idea because of the economy.

“And then I moved to Charlotte about two years ago and realized how a lot of people here are really car enthusiasts,” he says. “It hit me that this would be the ideal place for The Auto Country Club. It seemed like the economy was improving, so I thought now might be the perfect time to start something like this.”

Bongart says he studied a number of similar facilities around the country while working on the blueprints for his project, and most of them were primarily storage facilities, without the amenities and lifestyle elements he’s offering.

For example, there’s the Portland Motor Club in Portland, Maine, that touts a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled building that can accommodate up to 140 vehicles in storage. It also has a members’ lounge with meeting and social space, but no individual condo-style units.

At Collectors Car Garage in Bedford Hills, New York, members pay between $350 to $500 per month to store their cars. Membership comes with amenities such as free car washes and wine locker storage in the clubhouse; individual garage bays were recently added but are only available for rental, not to be owned.

Perhaps the closest example to what Bongart is planning with The Auto Country Club is a project that’s also scheduled to begin construction this year. A developer in Eagan, Minnesota, is building the Eagan Car Club, a facility on six acres that would include as many as 78 garage units and a clubhouse. The units are being sold for between $30,000 and $100,000, and buyers will be able to customize them with workshops or maintenance areas, but, again, no lofts.

Mark Grubich of Waxhaw was one of the first to purchase a unit at The Auto Country Club in Huntersville. Grubich says he’s a classic car enthusiast, and has had his eye on a couple of different models, but has nowhere to store them. He thought about building a garage on his property, but then discovered his homeowner’s association doesn’t allow the construction of external buildings.

“So I’ve been kind of in a pickle as far as what to do,” he says. “Then I saw they were building this facility in Huntersville. It’s a great option for me.”

In addition to providing a place to store his cars, Grubich says he plans build a loft/man cave in his unit, where he can showcase his collection of license plates from around the country, dating back to the early 1900s.

“The man cave is part of the fun of having one of these units,” he says. “And I also like being part of a club, where there’s other people with like interests.”

For details go to www.theautocountryclub.com

Renderings: The Auto Country Club

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