Imagine car enthusiasts being whisked by helicopter from the Austin airport to a supercar paradise where they can indulge their passion for Ferraris and Lamborghinis, sip Dom Pérignon on a rooftop bar and savor skyline views from glass garages in multimillion-dollar residences.
It sounds like something from “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” but an Austin entrepreneur says he wants to make that vision a reality at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas track.
Kamran Nezami’s vision is creating a buzz, in part thanks to eye-catching renderings by Bercy Chen Studio that are circulating online, as Nezami goes public with plans for a proposed $350 million residential development and auto club at the track.
The track — built on a roughly 1,000-acre site in Southeast Austin — hosts an annual Formula One race along with other events year-round.
Track officials are seeking a zoning change that would make Nezami’s project and other new development possible at the site. The property currently has interim zoning since being annexed by the city of Austin in 2012.
The new development could include a mix of uses such as a resort hotel, water park, indoor sports facilities, office buildings, condos, restaurants, a car club, warehouse space and parking garages, according to paperwork filed with the city.
Circuit Chairman Bobby Epstein said the requested zoning would further the goal of making the racetrack site off FM 812 near the Texas 130 toll road a world-class destination for sports and entertainment. Epstein said he has had initial discussions with Nezami’s company, Forza-COTA Ventures, about leasing land at the track for the development.
Nezami, who is CEO of Forza-COTA Ventures, said he plans to lease about 30 acres at the site to build four mid-rise condominium towers, situated at various turns around the racetrack, as vacation homes for affluent car enthusiasts. A fifth tower would host a fleet of luxury cars.
“Forza-COTA will be a haven for the car enthusiasts of the world to experience the most sought-after luxuries of supercars and racing.” Nezami said. “We’re not trying to build condos for someone who would come watch Formula One once a year. We’re building a lifestyle experience, a destination. Formula One is the cherry on top.”
A Forza-COTA news release describes the proposed development as “the first of its kind trackside real estate project” and touts its level of luxury: “Forza-1 Tower, one of the four residential buildings, will be erected between turns six and seven of the track and will feature a drive-in lobby, a parking structure inspired by the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, as well a glass car elevator that will allow owners to park and display their most prized cars right within their living spaces.”
Nezami’s plan calls for a membership-based auto club, Forza Elite, to be housed be in an octagonal tower on the infield of the track. Each year, 60 track days and 40 track nights would be reserved for members to drive their high-end cars on the track, Nezami said.
The auto aficionados could bring their families along to partake in an array of on-site amenities — pools, fine-dining restaurants, rooftop bars, cigar lounges, a spa and fitness center. Plans also call for a car-themed arcade, a planetarium, an observatory and a child care facility.
The condos would range from $1.5 million for a unit with 1,500 square feet to $8.9 million for a penthouse with 6,000 square feet. The average unit price would be $3.2 million to $3.4 million, Nezami said.
The four-story condos would have customizable glass garages overlooking the track.
Nezami insists the project is not pie-in-the-sky, saying his marketing outreach efforts indicate that “the interest is there.”
Nezami said he has commitments from several equity partners for the project. He declined to name the partners.
After sampling 800 to 900 people in its pre-development market research, Nezami said Forza-COTA received about 400 inquiries, including serious interest from 12 potential condo owners and 20 people who are interested in a car club membership, Nezami said.
Condo owners would get a membership to an exclusive car club allowing them access to a fleet of more than 40 luxury sport cars — including models from Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche and McLaren — which would be housed in a fifth tower. Forza-COTA would make an additional 170 car-club memberships available to people who don’t buy a condo.
Individual memberships will cost a one-time fee of $125,000 plus $6,000 in monthly dues. Corporate memberships will cost $300,000, plus $10,000 in monthly dues.
Nezami formerly worked for various Wall Street brokerage firms, then went on to start Houston-based University General Hospital System and HealthScripts of America, a pharmaceutical company with 28 pharmacies in 12 states.
He and business partner Robert Parrott have founded a company called Forza Run Worldwide, which produces car rallies around the world. Nezami said the Circuit of the Americas project would be his first foray into a residential project.
For Forza-COTA, Nezami has set an ambitious timetable: a 2019 groundbreaking and projected 2021 opening.
Nezami said his development would generate 200 to 240 jobs.
Michele Rogerson Lynch with the law firm Metcalfe Wolff Stuart & Williams is representing the circuit in the zoning case. She said she plans to file a formal application for the zoning, known as a planned unit development, or PUD, in about a month, and is hoping for zoning approval by the end of the first quarter of next year.
She said it’s too early to say how many square feet of new commercial and mixed-use development the PUD zoning might accommodate. Building heights would be about 16 or 17 stories, she said.
Mike Rollins, president and CEO of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber supports the zoning change. The circuit’s property is in a part of the region that is seeing a wave of new commercial and residential development.
“This will be a long-needed catalyst to create more jobs for families closer to where they live,” Rollins said. “This is exactly what our local elected leaders have been advocating for and hoping would happen.”
Charles Heimsath, an Austin real estate consultant, said the circuit’s efforts to expand and diversify the venue will continue to benefit the area.
“The more activities there are to draw people to the area, the more it becomes a preferred destination for additional development,” Heimsath said.