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East County Friday, Nov. 1, 2019 3 weeks ago

Garage condo idea comes to life in Sarasota

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Side of Ranch: Jay Heater
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

It was disturbing as I looked at my new Lakewood Ranch home, and then back at my pickup truck.

There was no way.

I slowly pulled my truck into my garage. I pulled it forward until it touched the utility sink. I climbed out of the truck and walked to the back bumper. I looked up at the door and back down at the floor. Then I hit the automatic opener.

The door came down about four feet, then the sensor revolted, sending it back up. I hit the button again. Down ... and back up. Down ... and back up.

I couldn't believe it. How could you build an American home that wouldn't fit a Ford F-150? It was unAmerican.

Bad news for me. I loved the home itself, so I had to get rid of my pickup.

As Mick Jagger once said, "You can't always get what you want." 

Until now.

On Oct. 25, I learned I am not the only one suffering from inadequate garage syndrome.

A company called Wheel Base, at 1600 Sarasota Center Blvd., in the shadow of Waterside at Lakewood Ranch, was having a press conference to discuss its new offering — premium garage condos.

It was there I met Sarasota residents Hans Schmeits and Dennis Brozak. The two car lovers live in the same Beneva Oaks neighborhood where Schmeits one day spotted Brozak driving his 2008 Aston Martin Vantage. They began chatting about cars on a regular basis.

Turned out they had the same problem. Schmeits had five cars and a three-car bay in his garage. Brozak had three-cars and a two-car garage. They thought it might be nice to have a garage in a comfortable environment to store their classic vehicles or work on them. In doing so, they could open up the garage attached to their home.

"I'm not a golf guy," Schmeits said. "So where do I hang out?"

The garage, of course.

Both new friends had business backgrounds, and Schmeits came up with a wild idea. How about selling garage condos?

They did the research and were overwhelmingly convinced. That was 2 /12 years ago.

What followed was more research, and a permitting journey that confused Sarasota County officials. The 5-acre site they wanted for Wheel Base was in an industrial park, but it wasn't a business, or residential.

"The county had to get its mind around it," Brozak said. "What was this?"

After getting approvals, the two partners designed a 54,000 square foot facility that would have 46 units. No businesses, customers or employees would be allowed. The condos would start at $149,500 and go to "several hundred thousand dollars" depending on upgrades.

Atlas Building Company Vice President Charlie Woehle said it's the first time his company has built such a facility and it had certain challenges. "We're not just building a storage facility," he said.

These aren't your dad's garage spaces. They are fully insulated with HVAC split systems, 12-foot by 14-foot insulated overhead doors, 20-foot ceilings, natural lighting, half baths, utility sinks and high-speed internet. 

The property, currently under construction, includes a 2,000 square foot clubhouse (with another 800-square-foot patio) that features a kitchen and bar area, showers and laundry facilities, lounge areas, a conference room and large-screen TVs.

For more information, you can check out the website at wheelbasegaragecondos.com

"We also have condo rules," Schmeits said. "You're just not allowed to live there,"

That kind of ends my own super garage visions as I would have to live there if I spent a couple of hundred thousand dollars on such a space. But Brozak and Schmeits are betting the Sarasota and Manatee counties area has plenty of wealthy condo owners or classic car owners who desire such a space.

They also emphasize a garage doesn't have to be filled with cars. "It's for people's projects," Schmeits said. "It could be model trains."

Or wine, or overflowing files. Or a mix of all kinds of things.

On top of that, the partners designed streets through the buildings that give it a neighborhood feel. The hope is that those of similar interests will strike up conversations and enjoy their passions.

"You can polish your car together," Brozak said with a laugh.

You can also get your cars into your garage ... and be able to shut the door.

 

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