Two- and three-story downtown offices and condominiums, high-end steak and seafood restaurants, new retail locations and trails connecting to city parks could come to downtown Greenwood.
Thriving development within walking distance of downtown Greenwood is the vision Mayor Mark Myers has for the property where Greenwood Middle School sits. In two years, when students move into a newly built school, the 16-acre property will be empty, and city officials have ideas for what could go there next.
Greenwood Community School Corp. contacted city officials about the property before anyone else, and Myers wants to use that land to help bring new development near downtown Greenwood.
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“As soon as it was mentioned, I jumped on it,” Myers said. “It’s right near downtown. Being able to develop that area, it’s a great idea for the city.”
On the list of possibilities: shops and offices, with apartments and condominiums on the second and third floors, and restaurants similar to the Revery.
Twenty years ago, when Greenwood was getting an Interstate 65 interchange at County Line Road, Ruth’s Chris Steak House visited city officials regarding a potential location on the southside. But the conversations lost momentum, and in the end, Ruth’s Chris didn’t think Greenwood was ready for that type of an establishment, Greenwood Redevelopment Commission President Mike Tapp said.
Now, a high-end steakhouse such as Ruth’s Chris is exactly what Myers and Tapp have in mind for the middle school property.
“They didn’t think Greenwood was ready for something like that. That was almost 25 years ago. I think Greenwood is ready for it now,” Tapp said.
Myers said discussions about the property are in the very early stages. The city must buy the property, which hasn’t been appraised yet. Once it buys the site, the city can’t actually do anything with it until the school is vacant, Myers said.
Before any of that can happen, the plan commission and city council would need to approve buying and zoning the property for new development.
City council members approved a measure that allows the city redevelopment commission to spend tax-increment financing, or TIF, district money on the existing middle school, even though it is not included in a special taxing district. But the redevelopment commission would have to approve spending money from the TIF districts after the property has been purchased, Tapp said.
The city also is looking into buying less than an acre of land from Duke Energy between the Greenwood Public Library and the middle school, across from Market Plaza, city attorney Krista Taggart said. The city has had that property appraised at about $130,000, but the negotiations are in the early stages.
If the city purchases the school property, any new development wouldn’t be complete for at least three to four years, Myers said. The property will become available when students and teachers move out of the 66-year-old middle school between Madison Avenue and Meridian Street and into the new $27 million Greenwood Middle School campus on Averitt Road, next to Freedom Park, in 2017.
If the property is purchased, development likely would be paid for with TIF funds, Tapp said.
“It’s a wonderful, golden opportunity that doesn’t come along very often, and it gives the redevelopment commission a chance to turn that property into an entity that will improve our downtown area economically,” Tapp said. “I’m very excited. Franklin has really grown in the previous years, and we’re on the verge of doing the same thing.”
Members of the redevelopment commission and city council have been focused on redevelopment in an attempt to make downtown Greenwood a destination for shopping and eating, including winning a $400,000 grant to upgrade the façades of 22 downtown properties and ongoing discussions to sell the former city hall on Madison Avenue.
Having restaurants, offices and shops within walking distance of downtown Greenwood is ideal, Tapp said. And for motorists passing by along Smith Valley or even U.S. 31, that type of development will add tremendous curb appeal, he said.