Published May 02. 2013 4:00AM
New London - The owner of Mike's Famous Harley-Davidson in Groton wants to expand his business and is looking at the former Coca-Cola building on Bank Street.
Mike Schwartz, owner of RLH New London, has applied to the Planning & Zoning Commission for a special permit to operate a motorcycle dealership at 951 Bank St. The store would sell Harley-Davidson motorcycles and related products, BRP/Can-Am Spyder motorcycles, ATVs, Sea-Doo watercraft and similar products from Polaris Industries.
A public hearing is scheduled for 7 tonight at City Hall.
"This project is an adaptive reuse of an existing building and will bring new jobs to the City of New London,'' Schwartz wrote in an April 17 letter to the planning commission. "It will be another attraction for current tourists in the area."
The 54,000-square-foot Coca-Cola building was constructed in 1938 to manufacture soda. It is located on 5 acres in a commercial zone. In 2000, manufacturing ceased at the plant and it was turned into a distribution center. It closed in 2010.
If plans are approved, the building would be retrofitted to accommodate sales, service and parts departments, as well as a showroom for retail clothing and storage. Plans also include a customer lounge and an area dedicated to the city's heritage.
The 8,000 square-foot roof, which was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, would be replaced. The footprint of the building would not change.
Hours of operation would be 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. The site could be used in the future to train customers how to ride, Schwartz said.
The Groton Mike's opened in 2004 at 1416 Gold Star Highway, replacing the former New London County Motorcycles, which had operated in the area for more than 40 years. Last fall, Schwartz received zoning approval to move across the street to the former Tee's Plus building at 1425 Gold Star Highway.
"We are weighing all our options,'' Schwartz said Wednesday.
He has 15 employees and is looking to double his staff, he said.
Schwartz is the founder and original owner of Mike's Famous Harley-Davidson in New Castle, Del., a dealership that boasts a museum and restaurant.
In 2005, the zoning board in East Lyme approved his application for a 46,000-square-foot Harley-Davidson dealership with a repair station, restaurant and entertainment section to be located at 15 Industrial Park Road in Niantic, the former Tri-Country Distributors. That plan died after Schwartz encountered local opposition.