estaurants and breweries are moving in, stores and boutiques are getting bigger, and visitors are coming from all over central Indiana to shop and eat in downtown Franklin.
In 2013, downtown Franklin had 13 small businesses open or expand; and in 2014, 11 more followed, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.
Last year, more than 20 businesses contacted the city about available spaces or grants to pay for façade improvements.
“I think we’re committed to making our downtown a vibrant retail and commercial destination,” McGuinness said. “Our goal is always going to be driving more people and new people to downtown to show them this is what we have to offer. We’re small, but we have a lot.”
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During the past five years, more than two dozen businesses got grants from the Franklin Development Corp., a taxpayer-funded agency, to fix the façades of their buildings. The city received a $250,000 grant from the state to help downtown businesses restore historic façades. The Franklin Redevelopment Commission also used tax dollars to fund projects, such as $200,000 for the Elks Lodge to renovate and move into a former antiques store on Jefferson Street that had been vacant for years.
The city also recently completed a project to rebuild Main Street, from U.S. 31 to Jefferson Street, and added landscaping and decorative streetlights. Next, the city plans to do the same to Jefferson and King streets, from just west of U.S. 31 to Interstate 65.
“The development of downtown, there has been a lot of money spent. We want new businesses to look at Franklin as a possibility. Since we have spruced it up, Franklin has a downtown other communities want,” Franklin Director of Community Development Krista Linke said.
That money also has gone into projects to open new restaurants downtown, which officials and business owners had identified as a need in the past.
Fred Paris, Franklin’s former mayor, got Franklin Development Corp. funding to renovate a building on Jefferson Street to open a brewery. Money from the redevelopment commission also went to renovations to the old Franklin city hall, where a new brewery is also planned. A Greek’s Pizzeria and Tapp Room is moving into the former site of Historic Don & Dona’s Restaurant on Jefferson Street, with plans to open next month.
Greek’s has traditionally been a popular pizza spot in college towns; but owner Jason Tapp said that when he was considering a new location, he wanted somewhere that would embrace and appreciate a place with good pizza and nearly 30 craft beers on tap.
Tapp considered Broad Ripple and Greenwood but ultimately decided on Franklin.
“I’ve always been a fan of the Willard, but there wasn’t a whole lot else. So this is just going to be another option for young, family-oriented people,” Tapp said. “The development of this community, it’s just ripe for a place like this.”
A downtown café and a tea room have opened, and Ann’s Restaurant has been remodeled.
The city asks businesses, such as the Marshmallow Monkey, which is moving to a larger space on the courthouse square, to chime in on plans and discussions to continue revamping downtown. The city wants input on what they want to see, McGuinness said.
Three years ago, Brandon and Nicole Nicoloff opened the Marshmallow Monkey, which specializes in flowers, candles and unique furniture, in a 1,100-square-foot retail space on Jefferson Street. On July 1, the couple moved to a 6,000-square-foot spot on Monroe Street because the success of the business required more space.
Their business began to take on more requests for flowers, and more visitors were stopping in to buy candles and furniture. The company does four to six funeral flower arrangements each month and already is booked for 15 weddings this summer.
At the old location, all the available space was used whenever they worked on flower arrangements, she said. The new space will have more room to prepare flower arrangements, meet with clients and for storage.
“Our goal in doing this move is to grow business while contributing to the economic growth of Franklin,” Brandon Nicoloff said.
The Center for Global Impact’s byTavi fashion and accessory store is moving into the former Marshmallow Monkey location.
Gray Goat Sports, an Indianapolis shop that specializes in bicycle sales, opened a second location on the courthouse square last year. The absence of a store that specializes in bikes, along with the restoration of downtown, made Franklin a great place to have a bike shop, store manager Brandon Street said.
Street also moved to Franklin to be closer to the shop and the downtown redevelopment. The customers he sees and the city’s efforts to revitalize the downtown area are part of the reason he moved, he said.
“The restoration of downtown is beautiful,” Street said. “Franklin is growing faster and faster. It’s a great place to live because the people are super nice.”
The development is an ongoing process, city officials said. More development brings in more people and, potentially, new residents, McGuinness said.
“I’ll never be satisfied with the development of downtown and this city,” McGuinnes said. “I’m satisfied with the progress we have. Things are going well right now, but we still have a long way to go.”