Motorcars repurposes former Pontiac dealership, invests in Mayfield Road
The once-vacant Pontiac building on Mayfield Road has a new tenant, and, if the Gile family can bring its full vision to fruition, it will soon have several more. Built in the 1950s, the spare modern structure had served as a car dealership and then an auto sales office, before former owner Lee Seidman donated it to University Hospitals in 2010. It then sat vacant, awaiting a new use.
The Giles, owners of Motorcars Honda and Toyota, purchased the building in June and quickly set to work envisioning a future for it that includes not only an auto-oriented business—a mobility van-conversion outlet—but also smaller-scale restaurants and retail space that would enhance the neighborhood.
Motorcars has invested more than $250,000 in the structure so far, including a new roof, tile, walls, parking lot and lighting.
The proposed mix of uses requires a zoning variance and a conditional use permit from the city, both of which the city has granted. Motorcars Mobility, with Curt Mason as its general manager, had its soft opening in August. Technicians will start training on Sept. 1, and the business will have its official launch soon thereafter.
According to Trevor Gile, general manager of Motorcars Honda, Motorcars Mobility will have the largest showroom of any mobility center in the country, with its closest competitors located in Mentor and Akron. The Giles believe that this location, near the Veterans Administration Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, is a winner.
Gile said that once the mobility business is firmly in place, Motorcars will work on building out the rest of the building with restaurants and retail. “We are planning a drive-through gourmet coffee and donut shop,” he said. “We also want to offer organic, healthy lunch options for families who are using the Rec Center or patrons who are having their car serviced. Medical devices and accessories are a possible retail addition to the mobility business.” He said a rooftop deck would be his ultimate dream.
“It’s been a vacant corner for so long between the Medusa building and the day-care center,” he said. “Many people come to the Rec Center for hockey and other sporting events. We’ll have the same style in frontage that we have in our other businesses. We’ll make the area around it look nice. We want to bring people into the Heights and have them stay and shop.”
The Giles’ investment in the Pontiac building is the latest in a series of improvements that the family has made in the last several years on Mayfield Road. In 2012, the Giles renovated the front façade and expanded service at Motorcars Toyota.
Motorcars Honda, which is located on the site of the former Cleveland Heights City Hall and incorporates the former building’s doorway, is currently undergoing a $3.5 million renovation and expansion. The Giles recently purchased about a half-acre of land that had been owned by the city, just north of the building.
Planned improvements include a front façade renovation, restoration of the historic doorway, new landscaping, a new lounge for Platinum customers, and an expanded service center that will feature a state-of-the-art quick-service assembly line. Construction of the expansion will start in September and will take from nine months to a year to complete.
Gile said that the new assembly line will be only the second of its kind in the country. “It will enable Motorcars to do quick tests in five places and do quick jobs, such as balancing and rotating tires,” he said. “It will be more efficient. It should take less than 25 minutes to get through.”
Gile said that the new Platinum Lounge will have an elevator to an outside seating area. The lounge will also feature a play area for patrons’ kids that will include rubber floors and a Build-a-Bear machine.
Chuck Gile, president of Motorcars Toyota and Trevor’s father, said that a market study completed by Honda in 2010 indicated that the Heights-based company should move closer to I-271. “For two years, we looked at other areas, but we like Cleveland Heights and wanted to stay here,” he said. “Our dealership is on 2.25 acres, which is small, and additional land is needed to meet the amount of land [required] to sell and repair cars to meet Honda’s expectations. The conveyor system will have five stations on an assembly line, and each station will be the equivalent of 3.5 service bays.”
Motorcars recently changed all of its lights to LED, which has drastically reduced its lighting costs. The firm will meet with the city’s Planning Commission on Sept. 10 to discuss adding solar panels to the east parking lot (at Mayfield and Superior roads). Two arches of panels will cover that lot. Trevor Gile said that 65 percent of the business’s energy costs will be serviced by the panels.
“We want to be the greenest, most efficient dealer in the country,” he said. “The panels will also protect cars from the snow and rain.”
Kara Hamley O’Donnell, a planner with the City of Cleveland Heights, said that the Motorcars Honda investment would have a positive effect on neighboring property values. “We are retaining a major employer and have increased income and property taxes with 18 more employees, she said. “An additional $668,000 in payroll is projected with this addition.”
To the Gile family, investing in its Motorcars businesses demonstrates its commitment to the community. “This has been our home,” said Trevor Gile. “We’ve enjoyed being a part of this community and all that it has to offer, such as Cain Park. We’ve built good relationships here.”
Deanna Bremer Fisher
Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.