Automotive ‘Country Club’ in the Works for Howell Site - Sachse Construction
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Automotive ‘Country Club’ in the Works for Howell Site

A racecar-loving father-and-son business duo are moving forward with an ambitious plan to bring a multimillion-dollar automotive country club and garage development to a 270-acre site owned by the city of Howell.

The project, Motorsports Gateway, calls for 67 private garage suite units along a 2.2-mile, European-inspired road course geared toward local car enthusiasts, said Jordan Dick, who is leading the development effort with his father, Mark.

The pair opened JD Racing Indoor Karting in Novi in 2012 and sold the go-kart business in January for an unspecified seven-figure sum, Dick said. An avid racer who competed in the Trans Am Series TA2 at the Detroit Grand Prix this past summer, Dick said he was ready to level up his business pursuits.

“That was kind of a stepping stone to the master plan of having a larger automotive/motorsports development,” Dick said of JD Racing, now operating under new ownership as Full Throttle Adrenaline Park.

Phase one of the Motorsports Gateway, including the track, garage suites, a pit lane clubhouse and amenities, is budgeted at $65 million with a groundbreaking expected by next summer and completion pegged for the end of 2025, though the circuit could be drivable by 2023. If that goes smoothly, phase two calls for an auto innovation park and mixed-use construction to the tune of another $35 million.

The project is still a ways from the finish line, but it has the support of the city and several investors. Dick said around 20 percent of the units have been sold to “founding owners,” who pay $390,000 per 1,200-square-foot unit. He declined to name those buying in early as they “prefer discretion.”

In addition, Dick said he and his father are putting in more than $1 million into the project, using proceeds from their sale of JD Racing. They need at least $6 million to get the project off the ground. Dick said he is confident that will happen.

The concept of the automotive country club — a play place for the well-to-do who are more amused by driving cars than golf balls — has been around for years but seems to be growing in popularity. Monticello Motor Club, which opened in New York in 2008, is the model for many that have come after it. The Thermal Club opened in California in 2017 with recently announced plans to expand. The Concours Club opened in Miami in 2019.

Michigan has the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, which opened in 2015 and has a “private garage community” with flexible storage and entertainment space. But Dick thinks there’s plenty more market share to be had, especially with his hopeful twist on the concept: residential condos. His plan is to make the garages livable spaces for owners who would rather not leave at night. Most auto clubs do not offer the option of residences.

“It seems that there’s a pretty big demand nationally,” Dick said. “You have quite a bit of these automotive country clubs coming online. There’s been a pretty heavy push for the real estate to be habitable, or residential. Our intentions are to explore the opportunity.”

Making the units livable residences would require additional approvals from the city, which already is shaping up to be a tricky process. The city recently gave the Motorsports Gateway project a preliminary go-ahead over other proposals because of its unique plan for the empty site near I-96 about one mile away from downtown Howell, said Erv Suida, public service director for the city.

“We have been working with JD Racing during the inspection period to overcome various roadblocks as this property is unique with its location, wetlands and natural gas wells,” Suida said in an email. “If all stays on track we should be moving onto the approval portion late fall or early winter.”

The city approved a lease-to-own agreement that would require the developers to invest $2.5 million into the property before giving them the option to acquire it for an additional $3 million.

Dick said he hired Detroit-based Sachse Construction as the general contractor for the project.

The garage units will include balconies and be set up as a “secure, gated community” for an “upscale motorsport experience,” according to a news release. Membership options for those who do not own a garage will also be available for a to-be-determined yearly fee.

“The circuit will follow the contours and elevation changes of the land as it carves through the surrounding woods of the property,” the release added. “A state-of-the-art automated digital marshaling system including electronic flag displays, CCTV, and numerous timing sectors will increase safety and timing data analysis capabilities.”

The developers are planning an advance registration event early next month with details forthcoming.

“As a born and raised Detroiter, I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this assignment and we can’t wait to work with buyers to help them fulfil their dream of owning a piece of real estate at a track that they can count on utilizing for generations to come,” Jeff Glover, owner of Jeff Glover & Associates and listing agent for the garage units, said in a news release.

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