After ‘turbulent’ beginning, Franklin façade work finally complete

Two doors need to be replaced, and some minor touch-up work remains at a former downtown Franklin restaurant, but the rest of the project to restore eight downtown buildings is complete.

But even months behind

schedule and after firing one

contractor and quickly hiring a new one, the roughly $650,000 project has restored storefronts downtown, which should attract more shoppers and potential businesses to the area, Mayor Joe McGuinness said.

The city originally planned

to have the project completed

a year ago and had told the state, which contributed $250,000 for

the work, that everything would

be finished by March 31 at

the latest.

That was before the city had to replace Advanced Restoration Contractors, the Indianapolis-based company originally hired to complete the job. Advanced Restoration was hired in July 2013 but fired in early 2014 because minimal work had been completed.

“It was pretty bumpy and turbulent at the beginning,” McGuinness said. “We could easily have just washed our hands and walked away. I didn’t feel that was the right thing to do. Nobody in the city felt that was the right thing to do.”

Instead, the city hired Fishers-based Terstep Co. to finish the job. With the exception of the doors and minor work at the former Don and Dona’s restaurant building, the rest of the project was competed in early October, McGuinness said.

“At the end of the day, it worked out,” he said.

The businesses, which also included Shelter Insurance, Sharp Graphics, Eggers Woods law office, Cherry Leaf Properties and the Artcraft Theatre, joined the city in applying for a state grant to pay for the project. Many of the business buildings were built in the early 1900s, and owners wanted to make updates so the buildings didn’t look dated or out of place.

Along with the $250,000 state grant, each of the businesses had to cover 5 percent of the cost of the work at the respective buildings. The Franklin Development Corp. provided most of the money for the project, and the city redevelopment commission also contributed, McGuinness said.

The idea behind the façade project was to update and repair the older-looking downtown businesses so that residents and shoppers would opt to spend more time there. Businesses that see attractive buildings that draw customers might consider locating in Franklin, McGuinness said.

With that goal achieved, the mayor wants to continue to watch for road and other projects that will bring more people to Franklin.

Franklin paid Advanced Restoration $68,000 for the work the company completed, which was about

13 percent of the project, which left $523,500. The contract with Terstep was for $460,500, which was about $100,000 less than the company originally bid for the project.

McGuinness expects that once the two doors are installed and the trim work is done that the project will be right at budget.

The original agreement with the state said that the project needed to be complete by March 31. Terstep began work immediately after it was awarded the contract for the project, and the city received a deadline extension from the state without any problems, McGuinness said.

As construction went on during spring and summer, the eight downtown businesses had plywood and plastic covering the fronts of their buildings and spent a month or two in offices that couldn’t be cooled off or drown out the sounds of nearby traffic. Some owners also had to go out of their way to explain to customers that they were still open. At times when the city was transitioning from one contractor to another, business owners had questions that city officials didn’t have answers to.

But once the city found the new contractor, work was able to finish quickly. If and when the city decides to undertake another downtown construction project, officials will need to talk regularly with business owners so they know what to expect and are aware of any potential problems, McGuinness said.

At a glance

Here’s a look at some of the work done as part of the Franklin facade project:

The buildings that participated: The Artcraft Theatre; Huddleston and Huddleston law office; Cherry Leaf Business Center; Eggers Woods law office; Michael Lock Shelter Insurance; Don and Dona’s Restaurant; Jennifer Jones Auger, attorney at law; Sharp Graphics

The work that was done: Awnings were fixed, cracked bricks were replaced, and storefronts were renovated

Why: To make downtown more attractive to shoppers and to potential businesses looking for a place to relocate