Garage Towns: Man-Cave Makeover
Looking for a home away from home? The newest trend is luxury garage condos.
STonegate motor plaza
The StoneGate Motorplaza complex is located in Stilwell, Kansas, a little more than 30 miles outside Kansas City. The land changes out there: rolling corn fields stretch their stalks to the sun, and the skies seem just a shade bluer than they did before. Roads are narrow, less traveled. These scenes could be printed on a postcard of the Midwest.
The StoneGate Motorplaza could be on the front of an entirely different kind of postcard. The man behind the development project is architect and entrepreneur Joe Effertz. On the outskirts of Stilwell, Effertz’s 160-acre property is enclosed by an impressive wrought-iron gate. It seems a rather imposing security measure for what lies beyond: a grouping of two large buildings — with concrete plans for seven more buildings for an ultimate grand total of 150 units — with white roll-up garage doors. It looks rather like the kind of industrial hold where semi-trucks load and unload.
The plain exterior, Effertz says, is rather the idea. The StoneGate Motorplaza is the local iteration of a national trend: storage suites and condominiums that are purchased and finished by people who are looking for a little more than just extra garage space. Garage towns like Effertz’s StoneGate Motorplaza offer secure private storage for cars, RVs, sporting equipment — the kind of thing that you wouldn’t really want to leave parked on the curb outside your home.
Here’s how it works: Each of Effertz’s buildings house garage units; between the two finished buildings, he has 24 units — but that doesn’t necessarily mean there are 24 owners. Often, Effertz’s buyers will opt to purchase two or more units and build them out depending on their needs and desires — and some of those desires are extraordinary. Many of the buyers choose to furnish their units with a full bathroom, a full bar and wall-consuming flat-screen televisions.
“Our motto is: Dream it, build it, live it,” Effertz tells me with a grand smile sweeping across his tanned face. “It’s like: ‘What do you want? We can create it.’ We can build the whole thing for you. If you have contractors that you want to use, great. It’s basically that we can do as little or as much as you want [to your unit].”
For owners like John Hutchins, the dream is extensive. He put his deposit down three years ago, when StoneGate Motorplaza was still just a concept. Now, he’s taking full advantage of his purchase: Hutchins’ single unit has an outdoor and indoor balcony, and he’s built a full bar and bathroom on the second-floor mezzanine, which overlooks his immaculate 2001 Roush Mustang convertible (along with a fully functioning scoreboard, to track the Royals games, of course). He’s out at StoneGate Motorplaza, he says, around three nights a week.
“I tried to do a man cave at my house, and it never gets done,” Hutchins says. “I added onto a building, and it filled up with other stuff, business stuff. For me, this makes sense because it’s close enough to home, but far enough away where I can separate myself from my work a little. It’s kind of like having a lake house, but better in a lot of ways. I’ve never been one of those guys who wants to retreat to a lake; I’d rather go and work on stuff here.”
Hutchins isn’t alone in his thinking. Effertz is already selling the units yet to be built on the property to new buyers. His vision for this stretch of property doesn’t end with storage. StoneGate Motorplaza is designed, he says, with a greater purpose in mind: community. A very specific community, in fact — people who like cars. Really, really nice cars.
“We’re all about living your dream and living your passion,” Effertz says, “and StoneGate Motorplaza is all about people that have a passion for automobiles and anything with a motor. We’ve got RVs, we’ve got exotic cars, muscle cars, classic cars. We’ve got motorcycles, UTVs, dirt bikes. And this is a place for people who love that, who live it, to come together and be around like-minded people.”
The privilege of admission to this community starts at around $100,000 for one of Effertz’s units and goes up from there. Despite the second-home price tag, these garage condos are not meant to be permanent residences. Think of them, Effertz says, as the alternative to a lake house.
“It’s not intended to be a place to live,” Effertz says. “It’s intended to be like a vacation home. You can spend the night, but you’re not supposed to live here. We’ve got a theme of common sense: The rules are strict, but as long as you’re not bothering anyone else or your neighbors, you won’t have problems.”
The whole idea, Effertz insists, is closer to a club whose members have the same set of interests.
“Even though we’re building private garages, what we’re creating is a community lifestyle — that’s what people are buying into,” Effertz says. “Anyone can buy a garage or a building, and a lot of guys will store their cars wherever, but you’re not hanging out with people that want to do the same thing. It’s no different than going to the lake and doing the lake and boat thing. Here, you’re doing the car thing.”
For Jim Turner, another owner at StoneGate Motorplaza — his is a corner unit with a wraparound balcony on the second story — the car thing holds great appeal.
“I’m part of a couple of car groups — the Viper Club and KC Exotic Car Club — and I envision having those guys down on a Friday night,” Turner says. “It’ll be just a great club to hang out. We’ve had several events down there already, and it’s really fun. I think the community is going to be a really important part of it.”
Not every multiplex of garage condominiums is dedicated to people who are into anything with an engine, though it seems to be particularly popular among that crowd. Jason Bandy’s Luxury Condo Garage complex — which broke ground at the beginning of September just off Highway 69, at the 159th Street exit in Overland Park — will feature 120 units total.
Luxury Condo Garage will feature a central “clubhouse,” Bandy says, complete with showers and a full kitchen. Beyond that, it’s a similar concept to Effertz’s StoneGate Motorplaza: Units are available for purchase (around $135 per square foot) or lease (around $1.25 per square foot), and they’re designed so that the new owners will have the option to add a bathroom, a bar or a three-tier car lift.
“The unit will come as a shell, and each unit can be customized,” Bandy says. “A car collector could put his cars stacked on top of each other, three tiers high, and still have a mezzanine space for a bar to look out over everything. People in general like to have that ownership, so this is something they could really customize and make their own.”
But Luxury Condo Garage won’t be only for the car aficionado, Bandy says. He hopes to attract a broader buyer demographic.
“We feel like what we’re doing is very flexible,” Bandy says. “It’s not just for cars. If you own a small business, it’s for record storage. We’re not locked into the automotive complex. There’s a lot of different scenarios we can see going in here.”
What, besides high-end cars, might fit here? Sports courts, Bandy suggests. And who wouldn’t want their own indoor batting cage?
“We envision a lot of people putting in sport courts,” he says. “Basketball courts, indoor batting cages, practice golf driving ranges, that kind of thing. The weather can be pretty brutal here in the winter, and if you have kids or you don’t want to share a space with anyone else, this is a great option.”
Small businesses with records to store, Bandy says, would also make a great fit.
“I think it’s important for those small-business owners to note that,” he says. “A lot of times, they don’t have a great location to store equipment at. This is a great location, and they can buy into it, and the location appreciates over time, making their business more valuable.”
The property value is a strong point for Bandy; any of these units automatically become an “appreciating asset,” he says, given the zip code and location — spitting distance from the BluHawk development, a new real estate development project.
“This is definitely an investment,” Bandy says. “You’re buying into a property area with some of the highest net worth in the country, and this land is going to appreciate, so when you buy one of these units, it’s an asset that the family will have over time. We’ve seen people turn these assets into revenue streams, where they buy it and rent it out.”
More than anything, Bandy says, Luxury Condo Garage will offer the owner that “third space” — that place between work and home that can be repurposed in any number of ways.
“If you look at the mini-storage companies, they tend to be a pretty good investment,” Bandy says. “But mini-storage is yesterday’s news. Everyone has those. We did some research, and we found that Americans have more and more toys, boats, RVs — the list goes on — and they need space to store that stuff. Condo garages are larger, cleaner, more professional-looking, and a lot of the time, they’re safer.”
Safety is a great consideration for both Bandy and Effertz. One of Luxury Condo Garage’s most attractive amenities is its security: While owners will be able to access their units 24 hours a day, they’ll be pulling out badges at a gate to get through — and, Bandy says, owners will be able to add on any level of security they want, if they’d like something beyond the guard and the security cameras he’ll have installed.
StoneGate Motorplaza won’t be short on security, either, but Effertz is a good deal more interested in talking about an amenity unlike any other: the private test track he plans to install on the edge of his property. Effertz stands outside of one the units, one hand on his hip, and gestures to a green, wild-looking field of corn a few yards away.
“It’ll go right here,” he says. “Nobody said that I could get that approved, and I did.”
Effertz has every right to be pleased with himself: The approval for a private test track — not a racetrack, he emphasizes — came after several exhaustive engineering studies and public hearings. He had to prove, he says, that he wasn’t going to disrupt the tranquility of Stilwell by building the next Kansas Speedway — which is far from his intention.
“Think of this as more like a private country club, except instead of driving golf balls, you’re driving cars,” Effertz offers. “Some of the guys want to take their cars out and race them fast, but a lot of the time, they don’t want to do it in front of hundreds or thousands of people. For the guys who are really into racing, the track will be a great testing facility to hone your skills. It’s just one car at a time, so you’re racing the clock.”
Effertz’s test track will be the first and only in Johnson County. After the corn is harvested, he’ll start by putting in a dirt version of the track before the plans for asphalt are approved. For race enthusiasts, it’s a long-shot dream come true. But Effertz’s plans for StoneGate Motorplaza don’t stop there. Eventually, he says, he’d like to include retail sites on the property.
“Right now, we’re doing a lot of car-related events without the retail,” he says. “In the future, we’ll have an auto-centric bar and grill; it might overlook a body shop or high-end mechanic shop. Instead of watching the Velocity channel on TV, people who are coming out for dinner or happy hour can come and experience the excitement in real life. We’ll be doing plenty of car shows. There are a lot of possibilities out here.”
Effertz has been working on the concept for StoneGate Motorplaza since 2013. In the year and a half he’s been developing on the location, he’s already held several events — including the annual BlumaPalooza, a live music, barbecue and car-themed charity event for military veterans, which got its start in 2014. The charity events, he says, are particularly important to him, and they tie directly into his community mission.
“In a 15-month period, between the two BlumaPaloozas and a few smaller events, we’ve raised over $60,000 for various charities, and I’m proud of that,” Effertz says. “I’ve always wanted this project to be about giving back in some way, and the people that can afford to be here can afford to give back.”
To that end, Effertz has more plans to host — all part, he says, of the great potential StoneGate Motorplaza can offer.
“We’re going to start doing some progressive dinners, like ‘Cars and Cabernet’ — where people go out and tour the grounds and get to know each other and what we’re doing here,” Effertz says. “To be honest, there’s always something going on. I feel like this place changes every week. It’s like a snowball right now, and it’s growing.”
For more information, visit stonegatemotorplaza.com and luxurycondogarage.com.