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Howard Brown Demolishes 100-Year-Old Auto Garage In Edgewater As Health Center Plots Local Expansion

Howard Brown Health said it is planning a building project at Hollywood Avenue and Broadway but final details have yet to take form.

The former garage at 5650-56 N. Broadway is demolished to make way for the upcoming Howard Brown Health center in Edgewater on Nov. 9, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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EDGEWATER — A 100-year-old auto garage is being demolished in Edgewater this week to make way for a new outpost for Howard Brown Health.

The building at 5654 N. Broadway has mostly been demolished as of Thursday afternoon, with crews still working to tear down the southern portion of the structure.

The historical building’s demolition has angered some neighbors and preservationists who wanted it to remain while the property’s new owner, Howard Brown, considered uses for the site at Hollywood Avenue and Broadway.

Howard Brown is still considering the best use for the property but said Thursday the former auto garage needed to come down for safety reasons. What will replace the structure is still being considered, said Erik Roldan, spokesperson for the LGBTQ-focused health agency.

“The original structure was in significant disrepair and was a liability to both Howard Brown and surrounding neighbors,” Roldan said. “Howard Brown is still exploring all options on how to best serve our patient population in Edgewater. We currently don’t have a construction timeline.”

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
Howard Brown demolished the former auto garage at 5654 N. Broadway

Bob Remer, president of the Edgewater Historical Society, said there are differing opinions of the structural entegrity of the auto garage that dates back to 1911.

Even still, Remember said preservationists had trouble getting Howard Brown to consider keeping any portion of the building, Remer said.

“It’s great they want to invest in Edgewater,” he said. “They never really engaged us. They made a decision a long time ago.”

The local historical society sought to save the auto garage after it was bought by Howard Brown earlier this year, calling the building indicative of Broadway’s previous status as a prominent motor row.

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
Howard Brown received a demolition permit for the building at 5656 N. Broadway.

Known as the McNitt building, the garage at 5654 N. Broadway was built in the Arts and Crafts style in 1911 as a parking garage with second-floor apartments.

Back then, parking your car or your carriage on the street was not allowed, Remer said. Wealthy neighbors like lawyer Willard McNitt had garages built to park their cars.

With glazed brick and ornate, arched brackets, the McNitt building is one of many auto garages turned car dealerships along Broadway in what was known as Edgewater’s motor row. There are least nine auto garages or dealership buildings were considered significant, according to the local historical society.

The garage was home to a body shop and car detailing spot. It was Northside Toyota until 2018, when dealership magnate Bob Loquercio moved the business to 6042 N. Western Ave., according to WBEZ.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The former garage at 5650-56 N. Broadway is demolished to make way for the upcoming Howard Brown Health center in Edgewater on Nov. 9, 2021.

The auto garage is the second notable North Side building demolished by Howard Brown this year.

The health group also tore down pioneering gay bar Little Jim’s in Northhalsted to make way for a new health center.

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