Naperville council OKs 'small house, big garage' plan for Iron Gate Motor Condos

  • With the Naperville City Council's approval Tuesday, six residential buildings with 51 total units are expected to be constructed within the Iron Gate Motor Condos complex, a community of garage-style units where owners can store their specialty cars and other collectibles.

    With the Naperville City Council's approval Tuesday, six residential buildings with 51 total units are expected to be constructed within the Iron Gate Motor Condos complex, a community of garage-style units where owners can store their specialty cars and other collectibles. Courtesy of Iron Gate Motor Condos

  • Tom Burgess, founder and developer of Iron Gate Motor Condos, plans to add six residential buildings with 51 total units to the complex, 14 of which would be a live/work model allowing business owners to live above their place of work.

    Tom Burgess, founder and developer of Iron Gate Motor Condos, plans to add six residential buildings with 51 total units to the complex, 14 of which would be a live/work model allowing business owners to live above their place of work. Courtesy of Iron Gate Motor Condos

 
 
Updated 6/16/2021 2:54 PM

Tom Burgess can remember the inquisitive looks on the faces of Naperville staff members when he introduced a plan to build garage condominiums where people could keep their specialty cars and other large collectibles.

Some elected officials who were on the city council at the time -- including Mayor Steve Chirico -- recall being perplexed by the concept, too. But the last several years, they said, they've watched the Iron Gate Motor Condos grow into a prosperous community that often serves as a gathering space.

 

The council on Tuesday gave Burgess the green light to move forward with the final rendition of what he says has been a "very successful project" on the city's far northwest side. The 51 new units include something earlier phases didn't: bedrooms.

"We're really thrilled to be able to take on this next extension that we've been asked about many times, really, from the beginning: 'Can we live there?'" Burgess said. "Yeah, there are people that actually want to live with their cars."

With a "small house, big garage" mindset, the six residential buildings cater to the interests and lifestyles of those naturally drawn to the Iron Gate complex, Burgess said. The ground-level garages attached to each of the 37 townhouses are expected to range in size, some of which could fit up to a dozen cars, he said.

The other 14 units along Ferry Road are planned as a live/work model, where the operator of a first-floor business also owns and resides in an upper-level condominium.

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City staff members said the residential use complements the existing campus, which contains 160 customizable garages built out in 13 buildings over the last seven years. The complex also features an auto retail center.

The council voted 6-3 to approve the next phase of development, along with various code deviations related to the land use -- allowing residential units in an industrial zoning district -- and building facade materials.

The lack of consideration for affordable housing was a sticking point for Councilman Patrick Kelly, who, with Councilwomen Jennifer Bruzan Taylor and Theresa Sullivan, voted against the development plans. Though supportive of the idea, Kelly said, he believes more work can be done to reach common ground, whether it be creating a less expensive unit option or offering a contribution to the city's affordable housing initiatives.

"Probably, you're not going to build affordable units with this concept. I understand that," Kelly said. "But to not have it addressed at all on a 50-plus-unit development ... that's giving me pause."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He also cast the lone dissenting vote in motions to receive the project's staff report and approve a stormwater variance.

Burgess said Iron Gate serves as far more than a place for people to store their cars. The complex frequently holds public events and raises money for charities, he said, which he believes "speaks well" to the development.

Councilman Paul Hinterlong said the design and use of the next project phase are "right in character" with the existing community.

"I think it'll be an added amenity for all those people that have made man caves out of their garages and wish they could live in it, too," he said. "I hope it's as successful as the rest of it is, and I think that it will be."

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