After Tom Burgess collected way too many cars to keep at his Geneva home, he created a showroom for them in a business park he developed. The storage issue was resolved, but he was lonely.
“I would be with my cars, all perfectly parked on the angle and with spotlights on each one, and it’s dead silence,” he said. “This is not the way it’s supposed to be. This is a hobby about passion and common interest. I figured I wasn’t the only car collector who felt that way.”
He isn’t. Burgess is building a gated community of 160 condominium garages, Iron Gate Motor Condos, in Naperville. Sales are cruising along. Since construction began in June 2014, the first phase of 59 units in four buildings was recently completed and is nearly sold out.
“We have such an expansive demographic, from guys who are track junkies into racing and tweaking their own cars to guys who are into collecting fantastic pieces of art and just like looking at them,” he said.
Many owners have bought multiple units, and a couple bought back-to-back units, so they can drive in one side and out the other, he added.
But these garages are more than parking spots. Owners are detailing their spaces with the same architectural features and amenities found in luxury homes. They install gourmet kitchens, wet bars with beer taps, bathrooms, entertainment centers, fireplaces, surround sound and lots of cushy seating. One put in a half basketball court. Local zoning ordinances, however, do not permit bedrooms.
Burgess’ unit, which doubles as his office and sales center, reflects an affinity for antiques. Most notable is an ornately carved wooden pub bar with brass railings, a canopy and illuminated stained-glass ceiling.
Although many owners curate collections that reflect a favorite manufacturer or a meaningful era, Burgess takes an eclectic approach. His inventory includes a 1966 Corvette; 1995 Dodge Viper; 2000 Porsche; 1980 Ferrari GTB; 2005, 2007 and 2009 Bentleys; and 1963 American LaFrance firetruck.
Condo owner Nick Hentges, a Glen Ellyn insurance specialist, also displays a diverse assortment of wheels in his large end unit: 1953 Bentley R Type, 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle SS, 2008 Jaguar XK and 2009 Astin Martin Vantage. He also has a Harley-Davidson Road King motorcycle and a dozen or so Schwinn Stingray bicycles.
“I feel responsible for them,” he said. “They have a history. They are part of our history. When I get something, I try to bring it back to whatever it was or make sure it is incredibly well taken care of, so whoever gets it will enjoy it as much as I have. Not that I intend to get rid of anything.”
His space was designed to entertain a crowd, which he frequently does. On the first level is a wet bar with lighted countertop and tiled backsplash. Upstairs are the kitchen, walk-in wine closet, flat-screen televisions and pool table. The second-level deck and first-level patio are connected by a spiral staircase.
“When your cars are just in storage, you don’t get the enjoyment,” Hentges said. “This way, you can spend time enjoying other people’s company while enjoying your vehicles.”
“What’s really cool is the cars bring everyone together,” Burgess said. “We have some rich guys, but there is no pretense out here. If it has a steering wheel and wheels, and you are passionate about it, you’re welcome. Tell us about it, and let us embrace it too.”
The owners host a variety of special events such as auto shows and charity fundraisers. They also invite the public to monthly Saturday morning “Chrome and Coffee” chats, where they can visit the garages, share information and network.
Iron Gate sits on a 45-acre site at 2212 Ferry Road, just west of Illinois Route 59. The low-slung buildings are finished with concrete siding, stone wainscoting and steel gabled roofs. When completed, the community will have 13 buildings and an automotive retail center.
Prices start at $129,000 for the smallest unit, which measures 20 feet by 40 feet. Seven floor plans are available. The garages come with a viewing loft, 14-foot-by-18-foot overhead garage doors, radiant heat, plumbing, floor drain and sprinklers. Round-the-clock security is provided. End units can have balconies and decks. Roof gables afford some units a third-level option.
Owners pay for their utilities as well as assessments, which are based on the amount of square footage owned, to the condo association. The smallest units pay about $55 a month.
George Mann, a Naperville insurance broker, is mainly a Porsche guy. He has a 1956 Porsche 356, 1962 Porsche 356, 2015 Porsche 911 and 1958 Dodge Sweptside pickup truck. He used to keep these and others in scattered locations, but the condo is more convenient, he said.
“You’re not likely to use something when it’s difficult to get to,” he said. “Now I’m 3 miles from my office. This gives me the ability to easily swap out if I decide to drive something different.”
Mann combined two large units and outfitted the space with high-end kitchen appliances, wine chiller, bathroom, washer and dryer, central vacuum and entertainment system. The deck and patio overlook the adjacent nature preserve.
“We have friends out to watch the Bears game or to cook a meal,” Mann said. “It’s a great place to entertain, drink some wine and have fun.”
Although many have characterized the garage condos as ultimate man caves, owner Dave Kelsch of Naperville disagrees.
“It’s more of a family cave,” he said. “We’ve gotten so much use from the space beyond what I expected. The entire family enjoys it.”
Kelsch, who owns a communications wiring firm, combined three smaller units beneath a roof gable. He can display his 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, which was the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 that year; 2010 Audi R8; and two Teslas, a 2012 P85 and 2015 P90D; and has space for more. He also put in a lift, so he can work on or stack his cars.
The loft has a kitchen, wet bar and entertainment center, while the third level is the music floor. On the walls are mounted nearly two dozen electric and acoustic guitars, another of Kelsch’s collections. To one side is a setup of drums, bass rig, keyboard and other instruments, just waiting to be played.
“I play a little, but my son plays in a band,” Kelsh said. “He has friends who play. They come over here to jam. Obviously, the neighbors won’t complain.”