Plans to add parking, improve a historic theater and fix up more downtown buildings in Franklin could get a boost with $2 million in funding.
What will be the priority for that funding is still being decided, but city officials know they want it to be spent to help with continued redevelopment of downtown Franklin.
The funding is coming from a $15 million loan the city took out that will be paid back with money collected in its tax-increment financing, or TIF, districts. The loan served two purposes: Extend the life of the TIF districts, which set aside property taxes from certain businesses to pay for infrastructure and economic development projects, and pay for multiple, larger projects at once.
The list of projects stretches across the city, from spending more than $9 million to design and make improvements along King Street and the area around Interstate 65 to roadwork, trails and added parking along Jefferson Street.
But the city specifically set aside $2 million for downtown.
The goal is to build off other projects that have been done in downtown Franklin in recent years, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.
“Downtown has come a long way in the last few years,” he said. “People are interested in moving their business here.”
Exactly how that money will be spent has not been decided. But officials already have some ideas they are considering, including a new heating and air conditioning system and digital projector at the Historic Artcraft Theatre. Improvements to parking and the surrounding areas along Crowell and Depot streets and continued work on buildings in downtown Franklin are possibilities.
Members of the redevelopment commission want to see detailed presentations before approving anything, redevelopment commission member Bob Heuchan said.
He is interested in the improvements to the Artcraft and has asked its leaders to make a presentation to support a request for about $375,000 in funding, he said.
Heuchan also would like to consider improvements along Crowell and Depot streets, near the railroad tracks east of the courthouse square downtown, since that area could use some help, he said.
But no projects have been approved, and the board doesn’t have to spend all $2 million downtown, he said.
McGuinness stressed the need to ensure any projects that are done make sense economically and will bring a return to the city.
“We wanted to make sure that however TIF money is spent, it brings a good return on our investment — whether out by I-65 or downtown,” he said.
He wants to get more details on the project at Crowell and Depot streets, including the cost and how work planned on Jefferson Street could impact that area.
Some of the most successful projects downtown have been to fix up buildings so businesses can move in, he said.
“We have a good amount of businesses interested in coming downtown. The problem is we are running out of vacant buildings that are inhabitable,” McGuinness said.
He said he doesn’t have any specific projects in mind, and the city should be open to considering all options. But he added he would like officials to consider some public-private partnerships, where the city and a business work together to fix up buildings.