The company will transform the property of the former Klein Bros. Paper and Twine Co. building facing the America On Wheels museum into a classic-car restoration facility and showroom with upscale apartments.
The site has been vacant since 1970. The property sits at 107-111 W. Hamilton St. and 14-28 N. Front St. at the east gateway to downtown Allentown off the Hamilton Street Bridge.
Al Ruozzi, who owns the business with his brother, Alex, under the ownership group ACR Development, said the project includes a building addition as well as total renovation of the Klein Building that will accommodate more than 12,000 square feet of the RB Collection showroom and restoration shop.
Ruozzi said the company should move from its Breinigsville site to the new site by the summer. Construction began this week and should finish by July, he said.
The company selected Valley Builders of Emmaus as the general contractor and R D Architecture of Easton as the architect. The estimated construction cost is $2 million. The owners plan to preserve all historic features and architecture.
“We are calling it the ‘Automobile Corner of America,’ ” Ruozzi said. “The location of the project is strategic. The Klein Building is an important part of the city.”
Ruozzi said visitors could go to the museum and then compare those vehicles with the ones RB Collection has restored and will sell in its showroom, which will include historic vehicles such as trucks, cars and motorcycles.
The corner was also an important part of the industrial district in the city in the 1950s, he added.
“We want to be a part of the history of Allentown,” Ruozzi said. “With this project, I believe Allentown will be a big car collector hub.”
With the museum, restoration shop and showroom, those three places will build a trifecta for the classic car enthusiast.
The company will build seven high-end apartments on the second and third floor of the Klein Building above the showroom, Ruozzi said. The apartments will be 1,300 to 1,900 square feet and will include an industrial look.
“The lobby of the apartments will be surrounded by the classic cars that are for sale,” Ruozzi said.
The lobby, which includes glass doors, will offer guests a view of the vehicles for sale, he added.
He described the cars as the same quality that one would find in a museum.
The company will construct an independent building to the right of the Klein Building for the auto restoration business.
With five employees, the company will grow to eight once it moves in, he said.