Setting stage for new life

A long-discussed project to get vacant and abandoned Franklin properties sold and fixed up is set to get started this summer.

The county has agreed to forgive overdue taxes and fees on eight properties in and around downtown, and a city-funded agency will either donate or sell them.

The goal of the project is to get the properties — many that have been empty and in disrepair for years — fixed up and have owners living there who will pay taxes. And if the home can’t be fixed, then the property could be donated to Habitat for Humanity, said Jeff Mercer, Franklin Development Corp. president.

The Franklin Development Corp., a nonprofit organization created and funded by the city, is expecting to get all eight properties by this summer. The properties range from homes on Jefferson Street to an empty lot on Johnson Avenue.

The project of getting long vacant properties sold has been discussed by the group for years, since the organization was formed by the city in 2008. The project could achieve two goals: bringing in money for the organization so it wouldn’t rely on tax dollars, and getting the abandoned properties fixed and filled.

All the properties had thousands owed in back taxes and had not sold at the county’s tax sales, where investors can purchase properties for the taxes owed. Some have been empty for decades. State law allows the county to forgive those taxes and then donate the properties.

By getting those delinquent taxes forgiven, that makes the properties a feasible investment for someone, Mercer said. For example, one of the homes has more than $60,000 in outstanding taxes and needs at least another $100,000 in repairs, which is not realistic for someone to pay, Mercer said.

But now, the Franklin Development Corp. can sell that home at an auction, allowing the city-funded agency to bring in new revenue and get the home sold at a reasonable price, he said.

The agency is not currently planning on trying to repair the properties itself, he said.

“We would prefer, unless we have no other alternative, to run these through an auction and be done with it,” Mercer said.

Board members are still deciding what exactly should be done with each of the properties.

Habitat for Humanity is interested in three or four of the properties. The board has discussed donating properties to Habitat if they are in too much disrepair to be fixed, or if the lot is already vacant, he said.

City officials also have heard from at least eight investors who are interested in some of the properties, Franklin community development specialist Rhoni Oliver said.

The group has to wait a certain period of time before the homes can be sold, so donating or auctioning the properties wouldn’t happen until this summer, Mercer said. Before then, the organization has time to develop guidelines for how an auction would work, he said.

At a glance

Here is a look at the properties the Franklin Development Corp. is expecting to get to either sell or donate:

544 W. Jefferson St.

420 W. Jefferson St.

934 Johnson Ave.

551 W. Madison St.

599 W. Adams St.

348 Kentucky St.

0 Cincinnati St.

0 Ott St.

Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2718.