Soon, the America on Wheels Transportation Museum in Allentown won’t be the only place where classic-car fans can get their fix.
Drawn to the area in part because of the museum, two brothers say they plan to bring a classic, exotic and vintage vehicle restoration center to the former Klein Building at Front and Hamilton streets in Allentown. The center would be adjacent to the museum on the Lehigh River riverfront.
Al and Alex Ruozzi, founders of RB Collection in Breinigsville, will open the RB Collection Restoration Center, a restoration shop and dealership that the brothers said will provide a complete range of services from minor tuneups and detailing to parts sourcing and frame-off restorations.
“Just like a car dealer handles oil changes to body work for new cars, we do the same for classics,” Alex Ruozzi said.
He said by partnering with the museum, guests who buy a ticket to the museum can also visit their shop and watch repair and restoration work on cars like the ones they were learning about at America on Wheels.
He said he knows of no other such museum/restoration partnership in the nation, saying he believes the partnership will create a distinctive destination for auto enthusiasts.
“It’s an absolutely wonderful fit,” said America on Wheels executive director Linda Merkel. “It’s a wonderful educational opportunity. We articulate what restoration is; now visitors can go see restoration work in progress.”
Al Ruozzi said the brothers are excited to be a part of the development along the waterfront.
“[The location] is so strategic because it’s the gateway to The Waterfront,” Al Ruozzi said.
The restoration center will be near the $325 million The Waterfront mixed-use development being built along the Lehigh River.
He said repurposing the former Klein Building will help in the creation of the hip, big-city urban feel that developers are looking to establish in the area.
He noted that besides the restoration center, there will be seven New York City-style loft apartments and two retail stores in the building.
The brothers said they are in the early stages of the project and need construction permits, but hope to begin work in the late fall with the goal of being open by late summer 2017.
The Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Authority and ACR Development announced the approval of the sales agreement for the Klein Building, which had been a prime target for redevelopment for the city.
In 2014, ACIDA put out a request for proposals for the building, which was formerly used by the A&B Meat Packing Co. and has been vacant for decades.