Historic preservation rules create roadblocks for New England Motorcycle Museum

Publish Date: 
Aug 18, 2014

VERNON, Conn. – If Kenneth Kaplan gets his way, a 200-year-old former textile mill will again become part of the fabric of the community, and of motorcycle history. But Kaplan said the biggest hurdles to the restoration have been meeting state and federal historic preservation guidelines.

Developer Kaplan is indulging a personal passion for motorcycles with his renovation of the 11-acre Hockanum Mill complex with a mixed-use retail center built around his vision: the New England Motorcycle Museum. He wants it to be the largest of its kind in the world, with more than 600 motorcycles, from an 1874 wood-and-brass steam-powered machine to high-powered race bikes. He has 100 bikes in his own collection.

Kaplan said he is meeting with state officials to try to have some exterior and interior renovation guidelines relaxed.

In order to receive a 25 percent tax break on the estimated $10 million project, Kaplan has to abide by strict rules set by the state Historic Preservation Office. If the project meets the requirements, Kaplan also would be eligible for a 15 percent tax credit from the federal government.

“It’s almost impossible to follow their guidelines to get their tax breaks,” says LaJoie. “It’s not just our business that is facing this.”Kaplan bought the mill in May 2013 after scouting the area for a place to open a computer tech center. There is about 150,000 sq. ft. of space spread out across 11 buildings on the property.

The recently completed former machine shop will function as the motorcycle museum’s entrance for the first several years of operation, he told the Journal-Inquirer. In addition to the museum, the site also will house a repair shop, Kaplan Mill Works, Kaplan Computers, Rockville Construction, a real estate agent, fitness center, mixed martial arts studio, commercial space, and a restaurant.