Car Elevators Are The Latest In Luxury -- Just Ask Mitt Romney.
This story appears in the June 25, 2012 Investment Guide issue of Forbes Magazine.
In March presidential candidate Mitt Romney found himself in the kind of awkward situation reserved for One-Percenters: Blueprints for the renovation of his $12 million La Jolla beach house were leaked to the press and spread across the Web. Nothing in the plans—not the 3,600-square-foot basement addition or outdoor shower—caught gawking readers’ imaginations like the split-level garage, with the latest piece of must-have residential exotica: a car elevator.
The former Massachusetts governor, worth $230 million by FORBES’ estimate, has attracted criticism for this opulent amenity, but he is by no means the first high-end homeowner to install an auto lift.
“It may not be a common home feature, but its popularity is growing rapidly,” claims Brad Davies, owner of American Custom Lifts, an Escondido, Calif. company that manufactures the PhantomPark, Romney’s elevator of choice. “We have 19 on order right now; it used to be 2 to 3 on order each month.”
American Custom Lifts has installed PhantomParks in the modern-day palaces of billionaires and A-list celebrities. (Although in Romney’s case, “everything is on hold right now, and he’s waiting until after the elections,” notes Davies. Romney’s team confirms this.)
A basic PhantomPark model costs $42,000 plus installation, which typically adds $13,000 (Romney’s version is reported to cost $55,000). Customized models—for example, where the top level is designed to blend into its surroundings—can cost much more.
Like all things designed for the rich and famous in real estate, Davies and his team typically sign nondisclosure agreements to protect clients’ identities. He will say that projects have included grass-covered lifts for boat storage sunken into backyards, multiple lifts to haul catering trucks to an underground 50,000-square-foot ballroom, even lifts hidden under swimming pools that emerge while water drains down the sides of the pool perimeter as a car comes level with the patio.
“We’ve done one for an NBA player that wasn’t even for a car … it was for his billiards table to come up into the family room when he wanted to shoot pool,” chuckles Davies.
Davies installed his first subterranean lift in Aspen, Colo. in 2002 and has watched the orders steadily increase, most via word of mouth.
When the auto collection includes a $700,000 Porsche
959 or a McLaren El (like Jay Leno, left), a concrete garage filled
with flickering lights and oil slicks simply won't do.
"Garages can't be an afterthought," says Arthur Gallego,
vice president of communications for SHVO Marketing, a New York
City company specializing in residential design. "[They need]
to be elevated from florescent and cement into a nice place."
Jerry Seinfeld would surely agree with that sentiment…
CustomMade Garages For Car Lovers
His garage on Manhattan's Upper West Side can hold 20 cars and
is reportedly filled mostly with the comedian's
Porsche collection. It has terrazzo floors,
wood paneling and a topend climate control
system. Not a bad place to preserve Seinfeld's
$700,000 Porsche 959, a model which is technically
not street legal.
And some say it's not even the most impressive garage on the island.
Farther downtown in Chelsea, developers at
200 Eleventh Avenue are building the city's
first ensuite garage system. The 15-unit
building's car lift system promises to delivers residents, in
their cars, to their apartments.
As the car nears the garage, a computer chip
installed inside the vehicle alerts the automatic
gate. Once it is open, the driver turns in
to the back of the building where the elevator is waiting. Once
the car sin the lift, the elevator registers in which unit the
car belongs and delivers it to that floor, where the resident
then backs into single parking slip which opens to their apartment.
director of sales for the property under Prudential
Douglas Elliman, says the buyer of one of his
park on the street, and schlepping through
the rain or snow to a garage is a humbling
The only drawback is that the building only
has 14 parking spots for IS units. It seems the odd man out will
have to settle for a driver at the front door.
For residential properties, lift systems serve both to maximize
space and to provide security for pricey cars.
American Custom Lifts, based in Escondido Calif., design a variety
of parking systems from basic multicar lifts
to subterranean garages. Their PhantomPark,
which runs $50,000 for pads and installation, has two platforms
that raise and lower cars from a single street level slip.
Highend homeowners "want to be sure about security" says
Brad Davies, president of American Custom Lifts. "If you've
got a halfmillion dollar car, you want it in a place where a robber
can't get to it."
Greenbacks Into Garages
Designers like Davies say the market for customized garages is
booming. In 2004. according to the National Association of Home
Builders, consumers spent $2 billion on garages. Today, that number
is higher than $3 billion.
"The garage is where the home theater was 10 or 15 years ago," says
Chad Haas, founder of Vault, a topflight custom garage goods company
based in Beaverton, Ore. "If you wanted to spend $10,000 or
more on a TV or sound system at that time it would have seemed crazy,
but now it's commonplace."
Why all the hoopla surrounding garages?
With the size of investment made in a car collection, its only
natural garages should follow.
The better the cars, the better garages need to be at servicing
and protecting them. A
brisk sea breeze can be great for driving in a convertible, but
the salty air hurts the chrome and paint. In Corona Del Mar, Calif.,
at the $75 million Portabello Estate, owner Frank Pritt, founder
of software company Attachmate, has an underground parking lot,
which holds 16 cars.
Given the ultramodern design of the house itself, and its smooth
architectural lines, it's only filling that Pritt's garage should
be stocked with classic droptop Cadillacs. Cars are raised and lowered
to a gallery filled with the iconic fins and long bodies of cars
iconic to the West Coast beach culture.
"Of all the overthetop amenities that you see being put into
buildings, [luxury parking systems] will stand the test of time," says
Steinberg. "Everyone drives cars."
About American Custom Lifts
American Custom Lifts is a privately held corporation dedicated to solving problems related to
the parking, storage and movement of vehicles and other large objects.
Headquartered in beautiful
Escondido, California, the company has service technicians within easy reach of virtually every
town in America as well as several international cities. The daily goal of American Custom Lifts
is to delight each and every customer with a combination of top quality products, value-based
pricing and exceptional service.
For further information including images of different ways to
park, store and move cars, trucks, boats, freight, people, and more
--- visit www.aclifts.com.