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Weekend edition May 19, 2023 | Shannon Smith

Demolition permit granted for historic Pryor Brown Garage

The demolition permit is valid for a year, and the owners can proceed with the demolition once they have coordinated an approved traffic safety plan with the City of Knoxville.

The owners of the century-old Pryor Brown Garage in downtown Knoxville have been issued a permit to demolish the four-story brick structure, which is vacant, deteriorating, and has been mostly missing a roof for several years.

The garage sits on a downtown city block bounded by Gay Street, Cumberland Avenue, Market Street, and Church Avenue. Most of the block is now used as a surface parking lot, with the closed garage fronting on Church at Market.

The demolition permit is valid for a year, and the owners can proceed with the demolition at a time of their choosing once they have coordinated with the City on executing an approved traffic safety plan.

During the demolition, expected to take about a week, the east-side lane on Market Street beside the garage and the south-side (eastbound) lane on Church Avenue would be closed, along with those sections of sidewalks.

The City had no legal option for denying a Pryor Brown Garage demolition permit – only that the proposed demolition be done in a way that’s safe and compliant with City adopted codes.

Pryor Brown Garage is not protected by a historic overlay zoning, and a mandatory 60-day wait period for demolition of an unprotected historical structure expired months ago in this case.

The only limitation to the owners of the property is a City Council prohibition on using the footprint of the existing garage for additional surface parking, which was put in place by a previous Council during Mayor Madeline Rogero’s tenure in office.

The Pryor Brown Garage first appeared on the Knox Heritage Fragile & Fading list of endangered historic places in 2014. It has been a staple on the list every year since.

Knox Heritage said this planned demolition is “a compelling example of what happens when historic buildings are not maintained. Blatant lack of maintenance is a strategy some property owners will engage in that can potentially lead to the demolition of a building.”

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