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AACA to buy larger building for HQ and library; aiming for move-in date in 2019

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Images via Google Street View.

While the Antique Automobile Club of America’s current digs have an undeniably exceptional provenance as a former dormitory for the Milton Hershey School, they lack in one key element — space — leading the club to sign an agreement to purchase a larger building a little more than a mile away to house its headquarters and library.

As revealed in an email from the club to its members late last week, the club will purchase the existing Pennsylvania American Water Company building on Hersheypark Drive, located right next to the AACA Hershey Region Fall Meet show and swap meet fields. The club and the library currently operate out of a building on Hershey’s Governor Road.

“We’ve known for years that we needed more space,” said Steve Moskowitz, the AACA’s executive director. “That’s why five or six years ago we approached the museum to find a new home. This property didn’t come up for sale until after we realized we’d never be able to build at the museum site. Our board went nuts over it — it’s the most perfect location in the whole wide world.”

Built in 1981, the 34,500-square-foot, two-story building sits on 5.9 acres and includes a six-car garage. The building currently houses a data center and hosts about 100 employees, so it should include enough room for the club administration’s 13 or 14 employees, the growing library, and display space for “quite a bit more” than the half-dozen or so cars currently on display at the club’s headquarters.

“We’re close to doubling our current size,” Moskowitz said. “It’s almost a clean slate, so we’ll be able to do some groundbreaking things.”

The club won’t be able to begin renovations for a while, though. It won’t close on the building until the water company moves to the new headquarters it’s building in nearby Harrisburg, expected to take place in the first quarter of 2019. In the meantime, the purchase agreement is subject to a 120-day due-diligence period during which the club will be able to go through the property with its architect, structural engineer, environmental engineer, and inspectors.

That renovation will bring “substantial costs to do it right” to the club, Moskowitz said, noting the special reinforcements, fire-suppression systems, and climate-control systems necessary for the library. Moskowitz said the purchase price remains confidential under the terms of the purchase agreement; the Loopnet listing for the property included an asking price of $3.99 million.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a building on Hersheypark Drive,” he said. “This will probably set the club up for the next 100 years.”

The current club headquarters, though not off the beaten path, does not attract many drop-in visitors, which does not help the club meet its goal of spreading the word about the collector-car hobby to the general public. The new building will offer the club far greater visibility.

Moskowitz said the club intends to sell off its circa 1936 current headquarters building — which it bought in 1970 — once the move to the new building is complete.

The AACA currently includes more than 58,000 members.