Water Street Arts Cafe closing

A downtown café run by Franklin College is closing, and in its place a degree program is expanding.

The college opened 66 Water Street Arts Cafe in 2012 in a storefront space connected to Franklin City Hall. The goal of the business was to provide a social venue that would bring the college and Franklin community together.

Three years later, the cafév hasn’t made enough money or drawn enough business to stay open, said Dan Schluge, vice president for business and finance at Franklin.

“The revenue did not cover the cost of operating the facility,” Schluge said. “More important, we just did not get the level of traffic we needed from our students or the community. We had some good events there but not enough traffic to keep it open.”

At the same time, recent changes in the field of athletic training brought on a need for Franklin College to add a master’s degree program for that field of study. The National Athletic Trainers Association began requiring athletics trainers to have a master’s degree in order to become certified.

Athletic trainers are health care professionals who work with physicians to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions.

Franklin College has had an undergraduate program in athletic training since 1999 and had 35 students majoring in that field last school year. So it was important to add a master’s degree program to continue meeting the needs of students, Franklin College President James “Jay” Moseley said.

But the college had no space available on campus to provide the classrooms or hands-on training space needed for the new program, so officials looked off campus to the café site. The college’s athletics training faculty thought the downtown space would be a good fit for their needs.

The decision was made to close the café and remodel it into classroom and laboratory space for the new academic program, Moseley said.

The college currently has a five-year lease with the city for the space, which was set to expire in 2017. The city agreed to amend the lease to allow the college to use the space for classes, instead of a café.

The café originally opened with the help of the Franklin Development Corp., an organization created with more than $5 million in tax dollars. The group viewed the café as a way to help redevelop a part of downtown Franklin and gave the college two grants for the café — $25,000 for equipment and $26,000 for façade improvements. Franklin College also paid for renovations and equipment.

The college is excited to bring the athletics training program to downtown Franklin, especially with its proximity to new biotherapeutics company B2S, which is planned to move in across Monroe Street, Moseley said.

“I believe there’s going to be a wonderful synergy between our master’s program and that company,” Moseley said. “A lot of our athletic training students will be working as interns in the B2S laboratories, so that was a significant factor in our choice of the location.”

Remodeling work will begin this summer on the cafe space, which is expected to take up to six months and cost the college less than $10,000. Much of the work will be done by college employees, Schluge said.

The college’s Master’s of Science in Athletic Training program will begin next summer.

“The program is already starting to get a lot of interest from prospective students, and we haven’t even done anything to promote it in the marketplace yet,” Moseley said. “Word is getting out.”