Franklin success due to public-private cooperation

The excitement in downtown Franklin is palpable. New restaurants, stores and boutiques are opening, and visitors are coming from across central Indiana to shop and eat.

In 2013, 13 small businesses opened or expanded in downtown Franklin; and in 2014, 11 more followed. Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said that 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.”

But that success was not achieved individually. It is the product of public-private cooperation that not only has preserved the small-town charm of the area but has enhanced it to the point that the downtown area has become a genuine destination for visitors and a point of pride for residents.

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 through the heart of the city.

“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.

A typical story involves restaurateur Jason Tapp. When he was considering a location for a Greek’s pizzeria franchise, he wanted somewhere that would embrace and appreciate a place with good pizza. He also wanted to include space for craft beers on tap. He considered Broad Ripple and Greenwood but ultimately decided on Franklin.

Tapp said, “The development of this community, it’s just ripe for a place like this.”

Greek’s Pizzeria and Tapp Room will open soon in the former site of Historic Don & Dona’s Restaurant on Jefferson Street.

Gray Goat Sports, an Indianapolis shop that specializes in bicycle sales, opened a second location on the courthouse square last year. Store manager Brandon Street said, “The restoration of downtown is beautiful. Franklin is growing faster and faster. It’s a great place to live because the people are super nice.”

Communities can’t buy testimonials like these. They must earn such praise — and Franklin certainly has.

Collective and cooperative work by local government and business leaders, and now outside investors, has created a downtown that is the envy of many Hoosier communities.

At issue

Franklin’s downtown has emerged as a vibrant heart of the city.

Our point

The success is directly attributable to the cooperative efforts of local government and the business community.