Local residents and other interested parties had the opportunity to weigh-in on some of the proposed concepts to revitalize downtown Franklin.
More than 40 people attended a public open house at Franklin High School Thursday where city officials and its consultants gave an update on some of the preliminary ideas on how to take advantage of new opportunities that will be presenting themselves as a result of building the new Franklin High School on the edge of downtown along East Sixth Street.
For the past several months, city officials and consultants from McBride Dale Clarion Associates have been working on a revitalization plan.
City Manager Jonathan Westendorf said the preliminary plan is based on the data obtained so far from the city’s Comprehensive Plan, background research, existing conditions analysis, blight study results, staff and City Council input.
Liz Fields of McBride Dale Clarion, said the focus of the plan is to:
• Make Downtown Franklin a destination.
• Create opportunities for recreation, entertainment, dining, housing, services, etc.
• Explore potential and possibilities for infill and redevelopment with focus on Main Street, River Street, and the gateways into downtown.
• Understand and capture the opportunities that the new school development provides to catalyze new development in downtown.
He said the downtown would have six planning areas that include the downtown core; a mixed use facet; maximizing the use of the riverfront; the civic area; transitional areas and key gateways.
Westendorf said that the depictions of various concepts at the presentation are still “a work in progress” and not taken as final products or recommendations.
“No one is forcing any property owner to sell their property to a developer,” Westendorf said. “We want to listen to you.”
Those attending the meeting went to various stations to “vote” on aspects that they liked or did not like.
Among the aspects liked by a majority of people participating in the exercise were having metal benches and planters as part of the streetscape; a community center for youth; more retail stores; lighting over the streets; a downtown that is easy and comfortable to navigate; arches over roadways; prefer building no taller than three stories; indoor, outdoor patio and rooftop dining; rehabbing historical buildings; street events; an amphitheater; a brewery: a well-lit bike/pedestrian path; explore a plaza/gathering space; infill development; and creating a safe and enjoyable riverfront experience.
Most of the residents were supportive of what they heard during the presentation.
Liz Buchanan, who has lived in Franklin for 76 years, said the meeting was the third time she has participated in such a session.
“I like a lot of the plan,” she said. “I’d like to see a lot of it happen, especially on the riverfront.
Another resident, Kara Marciani, thought the plan presented was “fantastic.”
“I think it is a way to reinvent the city,” she said. “Franklin is an undervalued part of Warren County. This is an opportunity to breathe new life into the city.”
Marciani also said it makes a lot of sense to capitalize on the city’s riverfront asset with some new development.
“You’ve got to do something and you need to think big,” said Jim Mears, a former Franklin mayor and longtime downtown business owner. “This is probably a five to eight year project if its done with the high school project.
One resident, Wendi Vinson, raised concerns about possible gentrification happening in the residential areas to be developed.
“I’m concerned for renters and low income people,” she said. “I’m concerned about people getting pushed out.”
Vinson also had concerns about some of the concepts for the riverfront and said she’d like to see a grocery store opened downtown because not everyone has a car. She took the opportunity of the talking to Franklin Mayor Brent Centers about her concerns.