City buying final downtown businesses in flood prone area to make way for amphitheater, festival space

The final flood-prone businesses are moving out of the southwest portion of downtown Franklin to make way for the city to develop a 14-acre greenspace that can absorb floodwater but also host festivals and events.

Picture an amphitheater, playground, food truck alley and as many as 5,000 people enjoying live music in the coming years after the businesses along Young’s Creek, southwest of Main, Wayne, Jackson and Monroe streets, come down.

The project will change the look of downtown Franklin, prompt investment in other parts of the city, prevent future flooding by creating a grassy space to absorb rainwater, get truck traffic out of the inner city, expand the trails system and create a new gathering space, Mayor Steve Barnett said.

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“It finalizes that destination area that we can all be proud of when it’s done,” Barnett said.

The cost to taxpayers is estimated so far at $1.75 million. The estimates to tear down buildings, prepare the ground, build streets and construct the amphitheater and restrooms have not been determined.

This week, the city’s redevelopment commission, which manages the property tax dollars collected in the tax-increment financing district, reached an agreement to spend $850,000 to buy the key piece of property needed for the plan — Generations Collision Services and Graham’s Wrecker Service, along Monroe Street, west of Jackson Street. The money will also be used to help Graham’s relocate both businesses to the Premier Ag property on Hamilton Avenue, and construct a new building and add fencing.

Graham’s has been in downtown Franklin for 90 years and at the Monroe street site for about 45 years. Appraisals show that property is worth about $380,000; the additional $470,000 is to help the company move to its new location.

This is the fourth time the city has purchased property along Youngs Creek since heavy rainfall again damaged businesses in the area in 2017. In most cases, the city paid for the property and provided incentive cash to assist in relocating the business elsewhere in Franklin.

In 2018, the redevelopment commission approved spending about $900,000 to buy more than 10 acres of property from Bastin-Logan Water Services, Recovery One and property that used to be the site of Hendershot Plumbing.

Both Bastin-Logan and Recovery One were offered 165 percent of the average of two appraisals of their property, with the intention that the money would be reinvested in the city, through relocating or improving other properties.

Those locations along Youngs Creek will likely be torn down this summer.

The businesses owned by Scott and Michelle Graham are getting a higher incentive than the others, but the amount is appropriate because two businesses are being moved, the new location on Hamilton Avenue will improve that blighted neighborhood and the property is the most important piece for the city’s redevelopment plan, Barnett said. The businesses will move by July 2020, according to the agreement.

The new park will include a plaza area with flagpoles, public restrooms, picnic shelters, parking lots and a playground, and be accessible on the city’s trail network. The property won’t just be used for a handful of festivals or the farmer’s market, but with the playground, picnic shelters and restrooms, families can use the park most days of the year, said Krista Linke, the city’s director of community development.

This project is an integral piece of revitalizing downtown Franklin, redevelopment commission member Bob Heuchan said.