KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Historic preservation nonprofit Knox Heritage continues to fight to preserve a piece of history in downtown. The city closed two stretches of road surrounding the Pryor Brown Garage Monday, citing structural concerns.
The city set a Friday deadline for the owner to consult a structural engineer and provide a list of needed repairs. In the meantime, drivers and pedestrians are asked to avoid the area.
The garage has been on their “Fragile Fifteen” list for seven years. Knox Heritage Executive Director Todd Morgan said it’s one of the oldest parking garages in the country. He said it’s also one of the oldest example of mixed-use development, with retail at the bottom and parking on top.
Knox Heritage’s goal is to bring the property owner and community leaders together to “look at this from every possible angle because there is a solution out there,” Morgan said.
The city announced a partnership to renovate the building, and add new residential and retail space, in 2016. Five years later, the building sits vacant and exposed to the elements.
A simple glance at the building will show many of those structural concerns. There is a significant piece of the roof missing, stemming from a collapse in June 2015.
But Morgan sees potential. It’s why he’s not only advocating to preserve the garage’s history, but he also believes the right investment would spark a lot of economic benefit downtown.
“What we know is that communities who have focused on preservation have been very successful economically. Cities that have lost a lot of things really lament that. once they’re gone they’re gone,” he added.
According to the Knox Heritage website, the building was operated as a livery stable in the late 19th century before becoming a mixed-use parking garage in 1929 as cars began to outnumber horses as the preferred method of transportation. The building was used as a public parking garage until 2013.