A new hotel, a grocery store, new homes and an athletics complex would all be a good fit for the area around Franklin’s Interstate 65 exit, according to a new study.
But not all of that is likely to come to the area in the next few years, and some of those plans could take decades, if they are ever done, city officials said.
The area around Franklin’s I-65 exit has been a focus of city officials who want to redevelop one of the city’s key entrances. The city already has plans to rebuild King Street and add a median, landscaping and trails to give visitors an enhanced first impression when they exit the interstate.
Now, a new study also is looking at options for homes, businesses and attractions that could bring people to the area.
One of the attractions could be an athletics complex, which would include both outdoor fields and an indoor facility, according to the HWC Engineering study, which the city ordered as part of planning for the future of the area.
The area where the complex could be developed is southwest of the interstate exit on land owned by Franklin College.
The initial idea for the complex would be to include several outdoor fields, where teams could play baseball, soccer and football, and an indoor facility and recreation center. The goal would be to make that center unique and offer a facility that could be used by teams that don’t have other options nearby, such as for biking or rugby. That could draw visitors from miles away and make the center a regional recreational destination, said Chris Hamm, senior planner at HWC Engineering.
But that development is likely 20 years into the future or more, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.
The idea came from meetings with planning committees and residents, who identified recreation as a possible development for the area around I-65. The plan also includes a large detention pond — possibly 20 to 30 acres — where people could kayak and do other recreational activities, McGuinness said.
But the city has not discussed any plans with landowners or developers and does not have any money to do the work, he said. Plus, any plans would have to be approved by the college board of trustees, he said. The land was donated to the college by the Hougham family. College officials were not available to discuss any plans for the land, which is mostly farmland.
Who would pay for the land to be developed, who would own it and who would own and manage any athletic facility also has not been decided, Hamm said.
Instead, the city has been focusing on the area northwest of the interchange, McGuinness said.
City officials, developers and the landowner of a 22-acre parcel are discussing options for development. That property could be a catalyst to development around the interstate, he said.
Officials have been discussing possible infrastructure projects in the area, including redesigning the intersection at Paris Drive and expanding utilities to the 22-acre site. The city recently approved borrowing $15 million, which would be paid back with money in the city’s tax-increment financing districts.
Those discussions definitely increased the interest of developers, McGuinness said. The city will finalize the loan in coming weeks and can then start work on projects, he said.
That property would be a good site for a hotel, which the city needs more of and developers are interested in, or possibly a grocery store, which east side residents have asked for, Hamm said.
The city should create a mix of developments around the interstate, Hamm said. The current character and feel around the interchange does not set the tone of a gateway that the city wants, he said. The city has a large number of businesses along U.S. 31 and would not want to compete with those, Hamm said.
The city has enough sewer capacity in that area to meet the demands of added development, city engineer Travis Underhill said.
Other development in the area could include added housing, especially apartments or condominiums to separate businesses and existing neighborhoods, according to the plan. And while some office space could come to the area, that is more challenging to bring than other types of development, such as industrial businesses or hotels, Hamm said.