Project to transform former GM site

Pontiac welcomes car enthusiasts with M1 Concourse project

By Dustin Blitcho
The Oakland Press

PONTIAC (AP) — A massive former General Motors site is about to rev up.

M1 Concourse, an ambitious project that’s slated to include a test track, car storage, automotive-themed restaurant, event center, clubhouse and more, is holding a kickoff event today on the 80-acre site that was last home to a General Motors Validation Center.

The goal is to have the first phase of the M1 Concourse development open by summer 2014, according to The Oakland Press.

Brad Oleshansky, founder and CEO of the complex, said he’s always been a car enthusiast.

“I grew up around Woodward Avenue,” said Oleshansky, 42, of Birmingham.

“I had the idea of creating a destination for car fanatics. I did research of similar projects around the world and took the best components of each product.”

Plans for the M1 Concourse include more than 325 car “condominiums,” including climate control and plumbing, as well as a 7,000 square-foot member clubhouse, 40,000 square-foot event center, automotive retail, an exhibition space and office.

The site is to include a one-mile warm-up track with a one-third of a mile straightaway, hairpin turns and a skid pad.

Pontiac Mayor Leon Jukowski said the site could become a center of Woodward Dream Cruise activity, and means both monetary investment and jobs for Pontiac.
“It’s a huge investment in Pontiac in a site that is very difficult to develop,” Jukowski said.

“As you’re coming up Woodward after St. Joseph Mercy Oakland hospital, that’s really sort of the gateway into Pontiac. It’s great that it’s going to be rehabbed and something nice is going to go there.”

The General Motors Validation facility, last open in 2006, was torn down in 2008.

The site was once home to the Pontiac West assembly plant.

Part of the site was originally occupied by the Wilson Foundry, one of the first local companies to hire blacks. Pontiac’s largest black neighborhoods sprang up within walking distance of the foundry.

Oleshansky — who has worked as an entertainment attorney in Los Angeles and formerly owned the Big Communications marketing company in Ferndale — has acquired the land from the RACER Trust, which markets properties that General Motors shed in its bankruptcy.

“It’s an auto project on an auto site in an auto city,” he said.

The complex, he said, will be “in the middle of all the action.”

Oleshansky called the project the “ultimate car enthusiast destination where like-minded individuals” can gather to be with their cars.

“And the public can hang out there at the restaurant. Private owners can also use the warmup track and the public will have access at times,” he said.

People can use the track for driving classes or aftermarket manufacturers could test products at the track.

“It will have all kinds of different uses,” he said.

The goal is to have the initial phase of the complex open next summer, he said.

Emergency Manager Lou Schimmel said the M1 Concourse represents a $40 million to $60 million dollar investment in the city.

“It really came together quickly, and it’s absolutely a tremendous project for the city,” Schimmel said.

Many area classic car owners have been invited to the kickoff.

West Bloomfield resident Dave Shipley, who owns a 1959 Corvette, stores his vehicle on his own property.

“I fixed up a garage and have TV and heat in there,” he said.

“A lot of (car owners) fix up their homes to have areas for their cars. Some who have 10 or more cars put them in pole barns, and add all the amenities like neon signs.”

Shipley said, for him, transferring to the M1 Concourse would hinge on the cost.

A member of Michigan Widetrackers, a Pontiac, Oakland and GMC classic car club, Jim Larson of Waterford stores his classic 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix at a friend’s garage.

Larson said the 106 Widetrackers have been invited to the groundbreaking.

“We heard about this at an east-side car show last Saturday (May 11),” he said. “The idea sounds OK.”