By the time partners Joe Schulke and Vic Lombardi won site plan approval for their third luxury storage project two weeks ago, island residents had already booked more than a third of available units – and the remaining places were going quickly.
“110%,” Lombardi told Vero Beach 32963 when asked what percentage of his buyers live on the barrier island. “Seriously, almost all of them are from the island. I think we might have two so far that aren’t.
“The people of the island are touched by the ocean,” Schulke said. “Their classic cars and other toys are affected by the salty air. They love the idea of being able to remove their valuables from the island and this corrosive salty environment.
In addition to providing ultra-secure storage for vintage Corvettes, valuable boats and luxury RVs, the solid concrete units – which range from 880 to 1,320 square feet and cost between $199,000 and $319,000 – are designed to serve as hurricane shelters for homeowners.
“Structures are built beyond code requirements — as close to ‘hurricane-proof’ as possible — and located outside of flood and storm-surge limits,” according to the project’s website. The partners “expect many beach residents to use their MotorHaus 2.0 units as a hurricane shelter during barrier island evacuations.”
But it’s not like homeowners and their families have to try to nap on a cold concrete floor next to their belongings until the storm passes.
Units are outfitted to be personalized as luxurious hangouts with hardwood floors, lofts, bathrooms, kitchenettes, wine bars, and big-screen TVs. Lombardi says some buyers from the previous two projects “really decorated their units.”
Buildings have backup generators, like hospitals and police stations, that owners can connect to for a fee, so they can power up in comfort, complete with lights, air conditioning, and a cozy interior 7 ½ inch thick, steel reinforced concrete walls, under steel roofs.
Lombardi, a prominent island builder, and Schulke, one of the city’s busiest engineers, also pitch storage units as good investments.
They note that units can be rented out for profit, appear as a solid real estate asset on a personal balance sheet, and potentially receive tax benefits. Based on recent sales and market conditions, they should appreciate.
“We had some resales in the first draft,” Lombardi said. “One unit we sold in 2019 for $180,000 resold for $270,000, and one we sold for $250,000 resold for $310,000. We think this shows the value of the property and the high demand for storage space.
Lombardi said he is close to a deal, which he expects to sign this week, to sell an entire six-unit, 5,000-square-foot building to a single island buyer who wants it for storage. personnel and investment.
Put it all together, and Motorhaus 2.0 commercial condo units are appealing to financially savvy island residents who need the extra space.
But the builder and engineer knew it – that’s why they decided to make the third storage project bigger than the first two combined, with 98 units, a car wash, an RV waste dump and other features.
Schulke discovered the untapped market niche when he and some of his partners at Schulke, Bittle & Stoddard were looking for a great place to store and work on their classic cars in 2018.
When they couldn’t find a suitable place, they decided to build the product they were looking for, correctly judging that other “car guys” would want to be part of it.
The group purchased 2.8 acres of vacant land on 12th Street, paying $420,000, and created a plan for a development they named Autohaus with 37 oversized units.
They chose the German-sounding name because so many high-end cars – Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, BMW – are German and they thought it “would strike a chord with potential buyers”. They chose the location because of its proximity to the 17th Street Bridge, making it a quick hop for collectors on the island they considered their main market.
Schulke said 27 of the Autohaus units had been sold by the time the project was completed and the rest sold out within four months.
Seeing this success, Schulke partnered with Lombardi to complete a second project on a narrow strip of land along US 1 between 41st Street and 45th Street, which they called the Indian River Motorhaus.
This 17-unit project sold out before the walls went up, bringing a sense of joy to the developers’ hearts and spurring them to start a much bigger third venture.
The original Motorhaus had two advantages in addition to profitability for the partners.
Due to its location on the heavily trafficked US 1, the sign in front generated a flurry of leads that continued after the project ended.
Cool architecture isn’t usually tied to storage buildings, but the partners hired Ken Labron at the Caribeño Architectural Group in Melbourne and worked with him to come up with a sleek, Bauhaus-inspired gray and red design that matches the name. of the project and turns heads along the busy highway.
“It’s not the kind of building we usually design, but it turned out to be a fun project,” says Labron, who is also designing the latest project. “Vic and Joe are both great guys and they had a vision that we were able to bring to fruition. It was a positive experience for all of us. »
“By the time we found the property for Motorhaus 2.0, I had 50 or 60 names, phone numbers and email addresses,” Schulke said. “As soon as we put together the marketing material, it was sent to all these people. It gave us a solid head start that no one else would have had.
Additionally, the partners are using a unit at location US 1 that they kept for their own storage purposes as a model for the upcoming project, which is only a quarter mile away.
They set it up with two stunning 1970s Corvettes that Lombardi owns – the red one a car lift above the midnight blue one – and a BMW that belongs to Schulke, along with a seating area.
The partners contracted the Motorhaus 2.0 site in June, did their due diligence, and closed it in November, paying $950,000 for the 6.4-acre plot.
They plan to clear the land in April and begin construction in May.
Schulke says it will take 12 to 14 months to complete 66 phase one units, which means people will be moving in next summer. Phase 2, with another 32 units, will roll out eight months later, in early 2024, if all goes as planned and the market remains strong.
The partners say most of their buyers so far have been car collectors, but a few are looking for RV storage and others will stock business-related inventory, including furniture used to put in the scene of houses.
The units may not be used as a business address and no active business may be carried on there.
Besides the fortress-like build quality, with tilting concrete and steel web walls, and the sheer size of the units – the larger ones are as big as a small house – the partners cite a number number of features that they believe make the project desirable.
The facility will be gated, with individual passcodes required for access, and the complex will be under 24-hour video surveillance, viewable from a computer or smartphone. The aisles between the buildings will be 50 or 60 feet wide, allowing plenty of room for large vehicles.
The units’ garage doors are 12 or 14 feet wide and 14 feet high, and the units have individual 100-amp electrical panels, fire alarms, and are internet ready. They are pre-piped for bathrooms and RV hookups, and are equipped with floor drains to contain spilled oil or fuel.
Marketing materials include a page of scale sports cars, sedans, trucks, boats and motorhomes which can be cut out and arranged in scale unit drawings to get an idea of the space one buyer might need.
Partners say the location of the project is another big plus. It’s 10 minutes or less from the Wabasso and Barber bridges, and only a few more minutes from the island-convenient 17th Street Bridge.
Twenty-seven of the 66 units in the first phase were booked or on hold last week, and if Lombardi receives a check this week for the 6-unit building, half the spaces will be off the table.
The reservations, which require a 5% fully refundable deposit, will convert to sales contracts next month when the condominium documents are registered. Another 5% will be due with the contract as well as another 20% at the start of the work.
The balance of the unit cost will be due upon completion.
Even though the future seems particularly uncertain at the moment, Lombardi and Schulke are considering another luxury storage project.
“We have our sights set on a number of properties,” says Lombardi. “We didn’t buy anything because there is no point in inventorying such expensive land so far away.
“At some point as this project moves forward, we’ll take a look at the conditions – construction costs, land costs, market conditions – and decide what we want to do.”