BRUNSWICK — Two hopeful entrepreneurs need the car-collecting community to buy into an unusual concept before they can launch their business at Brunswick Landing.
“It’s a brand new idea to the East Coast,” said Albert Kolff, who owns the company, Car Harbor, with his lifelong friend, Tom Lederer.
If Car Harbor takes off, serious car collectors will be able to purchase a two-vehicle bay in a barn for about $80,000.
Each barn would hold a dozen units, and as many as nine barns could be built on the 15-acre parcel. A clubhouse for gatherings of car enthusiasts would also be included on the land.
Ultimately the market will determine whether the business idea succeeds or fails.
“We’re hoping to build two barns in the first year of construction, but we want 50 percent of the units pre-sold,” Kolff said.
That means that 12 units have to be sold before investors will pony up the dough to break ground on the first barn.
Bob Allen is the vice president of Brunswick’s Rusty Nuts Car Club, and a director of the Maine Obsolete Automobile League.
He said that while the members of those two organizations are enthusiastic about the idea of car condominiums, they are concerned about the cost.
“Being in a blue-collar community, I don’t know too many people who would be able to afford such a luxury,” Allen said.
One car condo will cost $79,000 or $91,500, depending on the amount of ceiling space desired. On top of that, Car Harbor plans to have an active condo association, the dues for which will run another $50 per car, per month.
That price tag might be a little steep for the Brunswick residents who make up the Rusty Nuts Car Club, Allen suggested.
“We have a core group of about 25 to 28 members (and) I don’t think I know any of them that could afford to do that,” he said. “Most are retired from the shipyard or local businesses.”
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other car collectors out there who wouldn’t jump at the idea, Allen said.
Kolff said that he feels the idea will catch on among Maine’s car-collecting community. He said that it’s a way to diversify a retiree’s real estate holdings, which could allow someone to maintain a car collection while selling off a residential home or moving into a retirement community.
“If I had a car condo, I would have my old cars today instead of having to sell them at a reduced price,” he said.
Car Harbor is attempting to close on the purchase of the land from the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which authorized Executive Director Steve Levesque to sell the land for $46,000 an acre or the appraised value, whichever is more.
Jeffrey Jordan, MRRA deputy director, said that the final sale price will be fair.
“We don’t want to be below the market,” Jordan said. “We don’t want to be stealing businesses from the town of Brunswick. That’s not going to help us, by just relocating businesses into the park because it’s the lowest price.”
Kolff said that MRRA has given him an asking price for the land.
“They have a number, but we’ll have to see whether we agree with it,” he said.
If the land deal is finalized, there will have to be some zoning adjustments from MRRA and the town.
“Their civil engineer … suggested the portion of land that they felt was most compatible with the concept,” Kolff said. “They were very constructive with helping us out there.”
MRRA identified this specific piece of land for Car Harbor, Jordan said, because the business will have a minimal impact on neighboring residential areas.
“It’s a fairly low-impact use … that it wouldn’t be unfriendly to its neighbors because the buildings are residential style,” he said. “It’s kind of a transition from the residential zone to the mixed-use zone.”
MRRA would like to close on the deal by July, Kolff said, but he is ready to break ground sooner – if the condo buyers materialize.
“Our plans are to go ahead as quickly as possible,” he said. “If you brought me 12 buyers, I’d start it tomorrow.”
The timetable for Car Harbor’s proposed 15-acre development at Brunswick Landing:
• July 2012 – Identify buyers for 12 units; close on land deal.
• Spring 2013 – Begin building two barns and the clubhouse.
• Spring 2015 – Complete the fourth barn.
• 2017 – Full build-out with a total of nine barns containing at least 108 units.