by Long Hwa-shu
Parking in a public garage, invariably a concrete monstrosity, is never a pleasant experience.
You worry about finding a spot so you keep on driving, level after level, until you finally spot one to squeeze into. You worry about your safety and possible damage to your car – dents and scratches on the doors, to say the least.
That’s the way to do it
An area business duo, Budd Busceni and Kevin Macdonald, is bringing the latest technology in parking automation to the Chicago area that promises to make public parking a pleasant experience.
Both men are longtime commercial real estate brokers. Busceni is with ReMax Center in Grayslake while Macdonald is with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate in Grayslake.
However, they are on their own with the parking and other personal ventures.
“For decades, developers have been trying to get more cars in a limited space with the use of parking carousels, lifts, elevators and so forth with only so much success,” said Macdonald.
U-ParkIt, a Lawrence, Kan., company headed by retired Rear Admiral James B. Whitaker, has come up with a better idea. It uses a system in which conveyor belts are utilized to move, lift and shelf cars in a garage made of steel modules that can be assembled on site without the rigidity of the conventional concrete garage.
Macdonald said he and Busceni sort of bumped into the parking venture after a Chicago businesswoman mentioned to him about the need for more parking for the area in which her business is located.
“We did some research and came up with U-ParkIt,” said Macdonald, pointing out that the company uses a technology adapted from automated assembly lines utilized by major auto manufacturers.
“Until then, we had never heard of U-ParkIt,” quipped Busceni.
“The U-ParkIt garage can fit three times the number of cars than a conventional garage. There’s no need for a valet or an attendant. You just park your car, take a ticket and you’re on your way,” said Macdonald.
Cars can only be retrieved by those with proper authorization, the pair pointed out.
After visiting the company in Kansas and speaking to Adm. Whitaker, the two men came home with a big prize. They have been named Midwest sales representatives by U-ParkIt covering states including Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Ohio. Their territory also includes Texas and New Jersey.
U-ParkIt is planning to build a prototype of its fully-automated garage on the property of the BMW/Land Rover dealership of the Fields Group in Northfield as a showcase in June. The partners are seeking investors to fund part of the financing for the $1.5 million project.
“It will be the first of its kind in the Midwest,” said Macdonald, 48, born in Evanston, who started a messenger service when he was 18, immediately after graduating from Grayslake High School in 1984.
“You’ll see it—a five-story high structure when you drive down Edens before reaching Tower Road. You can’t miss it,” added Macdonald who operated a truck for 15 years before getting into real estate in 2003.
Financiers sought for Medical Marijuana
The entrepreneurs have another project going on between them: They are seeking investors for a hedge fund which finances legal cannabis startups to bring therapeutic benefits to those in need.
First Harvest Financial, the Tampa Bay, Florida-based hedge fund company, was looking to rent an office in Chicago. As a commercial real estate broker, Busceni was able to meet the top official of the company and showed him office space in the Chicago Board of Trade building. Not only did he lease the space, but he also hired him.
“The president liked my financial background, and he hired me as a vice president,” gushed Busceni, 52, who has been in real estate 10 years. Born in Chicago, he went to Libertyville High School and graduated Class of 1979. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northern Illinois University, and an MBA in finance from National University in San Diego.
First Harvest Financial also hired Macdonald as a vice president. As vice presidents, their job is to find what Busceni described as accredited investors for the company to fund legal cannabis startups in need of capital for equipment and ancillary supplies.
So far, the company has raised $5 million in private placements in three months toward a goal of $25 million, said Busceni. He added that he and his partner were able to help in raising some of the money.
The business partners work hand in hand, complementing each other. Busceni’s forte is in finances while Macdonald’s expertise is in sales.
Between the two new ventures and on top of their jobs as commercial real estate brokers, the men are working from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, they said.
It might help that both are bachelors. Busceni is divorced and has a 21-year-old daughter in California. Macdonald is a single father with a son, 19, and a daughter, 21.
“It’s lot of work. We split our time between Grayslake and Chicago,” said Busceni.
If the two projects pan out, needless to say, they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.