A long-vacant former Allentown slaughterhouse soon could be getting a much-needed face lift.
ACR Development has proposed a classic car restoration facility for the Klein Building, a property at the foot of the Hamilton Street Bridge adjacent to the America on Wheels museum.
The proposal, approved unanimously Tuesday by the Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Authority, calls for a $2 million renovation that would transform the 12,000-square foot Klein Building into a showplace for automotive restoration.
Building renovations, which would be done in phases, would include a first-floor showroom and 12 apartments on the upper floors. An addition would be built in the back to allow for more space to work on cars.
Developers plan to keep the entire historic facade intact, as well as the original architectural concept.
The work at Front and Hamilton streets would be a collaboration between America on Wheels and RB Collection, a Trexlertown business run by brothers Al and Alex Ruozzi. RB Collection restores and services classic, vintage and exotic cars.
“We are excited to take our 23 years of knowledge and passion for classic cars and generate a thematic approach to Allentown’s waterfront redevelopment that will become the ‘Automobile Corner of America’ right here in the Valley,” Alex Ruozzi said in a news release.
Scott Unger, the development authority’s executive director, said the proposal fits perfectly with the Lehigh Riverfront Master Plan, an overview completed in early 2013 that made recommendations for how to revitalize the city’s waterfront. The gritty land along the Lehigh River was once largely industrial and is considered valuable, but it has been difficult for the city to redevelop.
“It’s hard to contemplate a use that would be more in spirit and in step with the waterfront master plan than what they’re suggesting,” Unger said of the proposal.
The Klein Building was last operated by A&B Meats and has been owned by ACIDA since 1996. It was one of several properties given to the authority as a gift from local philanthropist Ray Holland. The authority sank $3 million into cleaning up the site, including its underground tank of lard. Originally, twine was manufactured in the building.
Despite ACIDA’s lengthy ownership, a concerted effort was not made until now to find a buyer for the highly visible building, Unger said.
The property is not in the Neighborhood Improvement Zone, Allentown’s one-of-a-kind designation that allows developers to tap state and local taxes. But it is close to several proposed waterfront developments, including a $325 million residential, office and commercial complex slated for the former Lehigh Structural Steel property, and a brew pub proposed for the former Neuweiler Brewery.
ACR Development was the only bidder.
ACIDA member Michael Miller reviewed the financial projections presented by the developers, and recommended the project to the board.
“One of the things we’ve talked about is diversification,” he said. “We’ve seen lots of offices, restaurants. This was something different. It’s a very complimentary addition to what’s going on.”
According to their proposal, developers hope to complete construction of an addition to the property this year. A second phase could be complete by 2017.
Originally posted at: http://www.mcall.com