study of parking in downtown Franklin showed the area has enough spaces for shoppers, residents and workers — even at the busiest times of the day.
But as more shops, offices and restaurants come downtown, more of the spaces will fill up. And as Jefferson Street is rebuilt, workers and visitors will need a temporary place to park.
So the city is considering spending $500,000 to develop a new parking lot downtown.
Franklin has more than 1,300 available spaces downtown — the area bounded by Walnut Street, Wayne Street, the railroad tracks and Madison Street. During busy times, such as when courts are in session or during busy movie nights at the Artcraft Theatre, 48 percent of those spaces are taken, according to a recent traffic study.
Downtown parking isn’t a major issue for Franklin now, according to the study. But downtown is growing with new businesses, and in five years, finding a space will be more of an issue, city officials said. Starting next year, Franklin also will close parts of Jefferson Street, tearing up and rebuilding the roadway, which will temporarily eliminate on-street parking options and make it more difficult for people to park around downtown.
Turning the now-grassy lot where the former Franklin Engineering building stood into a 124-space lot would increase parking capacity.
City officials have been planning long term to turn that empty space between the Admiral gas station and Jackson Street into a parking lot. Franklin Engineering was badly flooded in 2008 and had to be torn down. Since the entire lot is in a flood zone, no one could build a new structure there without significantly elevating the ground, which likely makes any development cost-prohibitive, city engineer Travis Underhill said.
Having the additional parking during construction will be a benefit, especially as new businesses open downtown and require more parking, Underhill said.
“All of these things stacking up, that will create a downtown parking issue. This will be a substantial issue for the downtown area,” Underhill said.
A consulting firm just finished a parking study because city officials weren’t sure what parking was available and how much it was being used, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said. He said he was surprised to find out that downtown has 1,337 spaces and that only about half are being used during the busiest times.
The central section of downtown around the courthouse square typically is the most used, with about 61 percent of spaces taken during peak hours. But demand in that area is expected to grow during the next five years due to new developments. New restaurants, such as Old Post Brewpub on Madison Street, Greek’s Pizzeria and the Tapp Room on Jefferson Street, and B2S labs on Monroe Street all will require more parking for diners and employees, McGuinness said.
The new lot would cost about $500,000 and would be paid for with tax-increment financing district money. Those funds come from taxes paid by businesses that are set aside for infrastructure and economic development uses. The lot would be designed to look like other newly finished lots downtown, Underhill said.
The city redevelopment commission decided to wait a month before making any decision, which will allow city officials to discuss the idea with the county. Johnson County Commissioner Brian Baird is supportive of the city’s plan to add parking. Since county employees work downtown and county offices, courts and the probation department attract many daily visitors, the increase in parking can only help downtown, he said.
Baird doesn’t think Franklin has a major parking problem currently, if people are willing to walk a block or two to get where they’re going. Parking is about 40 percent full in areas west of Jackson Street and east of Water Street, according to the traffic study. Those numbers aren’t anticipated to grow substantially over the next five years.
“I don’t think we have a parking problem, we have a walking problem. People don’t want to do any walking,” Baird said.
The city will work on other items suggested by the study that can help improve downtown parking, including updating parking ordinances to enforce 2-hour or 3-hour zones, better signs for public lots and also posting wayfinding signs that would point a driver on Jefferson Street or Main Street toward lots that are off the main streets.
Franklin has recently completed a parking study, which provided data and suggestions about how to improve parking downtown. The city is also considering adding a new lot on the west side of downtown in anticipation of new businesses and road construction. Here’s the details:
1,337: Total parking spaces downtown
48 percent: Utilization during peak hours
78 percent: Estimated utilization in five years
510: Spaces within one block of Johnson County courthouse
61 percent: Utilization during peak hours
141 percent: Estimated utilization in five years
124: Spaces for a proposed lot on the former Franklin Engineering site
$500,000: Estimated cost to build the new lot
“I don’t think we have a parking problem, we have a walking problem. People don’t want to do any walking.”
Johnson County Commissioner Brian Baird, on parking in downtown Franklin