BEVERLY — The city’s oldest surviving car dealership could soon be reaching the end of the road.
The development company Windover Ford LLC has applied for a permit to demolish the Kelly Ford dealership at 211 Rantoul St.
The building was constructed between 1919 and 1924 as a Ford showroom and garage known as the Harper Garage Co., according to information supplied by the Beverly Planning Department. It was the longtime home of the Thomas Ford dealership before the site was acquired by Windover Development for $3.3 million in 2015.
Kelly Ford moved into the location that same year with the understanding that the land would eventually be developed. Chris Koeplin, president of Windover affiliate Beverly Crossing, said last month that the site would be developed into housing, with commercial and retail space on the first floor.
Koeplin could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The city’s Historic District Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the demolition permit Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. The commission could vote to delay demolition for a year if it considers the building “historically significant” and “preferably preserved.” But the developer would be free to knock it down after that.
Ward 2 City Councilor Estelle Rand said much of the building’s historic architectural detail has been lost. But she said it still represents an important connection to the city’s history as a location for the selling and manufacturing of automobiles.
“What I find interesting is that it is sort of an end of an era in a way (if the building is demolished),” Rand said. “You’re not going to be able to buy a new car downtown anymore.”
Rand said she has spoken to Koeplin about the possibility of preserving an aspect of the building to honor that history.
“Maybe there will be some kind of homage to Beverly’s history of car manufacturing and selling,” she said.
Beverly Crossing and Windover have built several apartment buildings along Rantoul Street as it continues to transform that section of the city. The company is getting ready to open a building at 131 Rantoul St. with 72 apartments, and work is underway at 480 Rantoul St. for 90 new apartments.
Brian Kelly, president of Kelly Automotive Group, said Kelly Ford will move out of 211 Rantoul St. as soon as he can find another location in Beverly to build a new dealership.
“I definitely want to keep it in Beverly,” he said.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.