The Antique Automobile Club of America entered a contract on Sept. 22 to purchase a new building in Hershey, Pa., to house its headquarters and library.
“It took several months to go through everything and get it to a contractual position,” said Tom Cox, 2017 president of the AACA. “We signed the contract last Friday with Pennsylvania American Water Company, the utility company that occupies the building currently. They are building a new facility, so the closing and our occupancy won’t take place until that building is complete, but it’s underway. We estimate that will be some time in the first quarter of 2019.”
The purchase comes after it was determined by contractors and architects that the current AACA Library and Research Center at 501 W. Governor Road in Hershey would be costlier to update and improve than construction of an entirely new building. When the AACA and AACA Museum could not come to an agreement earlier this year to build a new AACA library and headquarters on the AACA Museum property, club officials began looking at different options.
“The current building goes back to the 1930s,” Cox said. “We bought it in 1970 and it was, in the ’30s, primarily for housing for part of the ... Hershey home for boys. So it is split up with many rooms, it has no elevator, none of that.”
The building that the club expects to buy is located at 800 Hersheypark Drive and is adjacent to the grounds where the club’s AACA Eastern Division National Fall Meet is annually held. Not only is the club excited about the building’s location, but also the space options it offers.
“This will allow us the opportunity to take the library to the next level, whereas today we are working everything that we have around the current building.”
Not only will the new building have an elevator and other features to make the AACA Library compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the club is looking forward to updating the technology in its library. In addition, there will also be more space for acquisitions both of the literature and even of vehicles.
“The library is continuing to expand,” Cox said. “Just in the last year, we have integrated about three tractor trailer loads of historical information of books, photos... any number of artifacts, rare literature... into the collection, so we are not fully beyond what we can curate, but we are going to get there.
“Right now we currently have eight vehicles on display at headquarters and we will probably have room for more,” Cox said. “It will not be a museum, that is not our intention. However, we will have the opportunity to showcase cars as we have in the past and currently do. But perhaps we will have double the available space.”
Cox also brought up the need for the more space for staff and the ability to conduct the growing business plans of the club. The new building will allow the club to expand its service to members and the hobby alike.
Before a deal is cast into stone, the AACA will conduct its due diligence to ensure the building will fit its needs, including engineering studies to confirm the building can sustain the weight of the heavy files of the library. If a deal is completed by the expected date of early 2019, Cox hopes to be moved in before the start of the 2019 fall meet in Hershey.
“How the building is put together, it will save us a lot of time and money by virtue of how it is laid out,” Cox said. “In car terminology, it is in mint condition. They have cared for this building very, very well.”
The club has not released specifics figures behind its purchase of the building, but it is listed for sale online by the Bill Gladstone Group of NAI CIR. The online listing states the building has 34,500 sq. ft., is situated on more than six acres and has an asking price of $3.99 million.
To help fund the purchase of the American Pennsylvania Water Company building, the club plans to sell its existing library and headquarters building.
“I have not seen our members so excited about something in my time on the board and people are really looking forward to it. We will have the opportunity to construct a library that will be consequential worldwide. That is our ultimate goal. To make this library the most accessible and the finest automotive library in existence.
“Everybody — down to our CPAs, attorneys and everybody else who lives in this area — says, ‘Gosh, this almost seems divine. There is not another property that is better suited to your purposes than that one.’ It is amazing. It really and truly is, and [factor in] that it is contiguous with the HERCO (Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Co.) property where we have the fall meet, we are beyond excited.”