New hotel proposed in downtown Franklin

Two Franklin businessmen want to offer a new option for visitors to the city: a downtown hotel.

The five-suite hotel would be located at 40 N. Water St., just north of Jefferson Street, where the Elks Lodge used to be. The hotel would be geared toward visitors to the city or Franklin College, officials with Japanese companies, such as KYB, and other businesses or investors and new companies interested in Franklin.

Buying and renovating the building would cost about $905,000, and the new owners have asked the city for some help to afford those costs.

The Franklin Development Corp., which was formed and funded with tax dollars, has approved a $50,000 grant to redo the façade of the building. The owners also have requested a $158,000 grant from the city redevelopment commission, which oversees the spending of tax dollars in the city’s tax-increment financing, or TIF, districts. That grant would be used to pay for adding an elevator, which would make the building accessible, and a sprinkler system, which would make that property and others nearby safer, said Jim Edwards, one of the owners of the building.

Without that grant, the project likely won’t happen, Edwards said.

Edwards is the chief executive officer of Hovair Automotive, an automotive and industrial manufacturing company in Franklin, and bought the former Elks Lodge building with his business partner, David Benham. The two became interested in the building when the Elks Lodge looked to sell it after moving into a new building on Jefferson Street in downtown Franklin, Edwards said. They also own other real estate in the county, he said.

They started looking at options for the property, which will need to be gutted and renovated, and heard suggestions for a restaurant or bar, but downtown Franklin has enough of those, Edwards said.

The idea for a hotel came from a need their company was regularly facing when officials from car manufacturers, such as Ford, GM or Mercedes, would come to Franklin. Edwards would have to recommend they stay in hotels in Greenwood or in downtown Indianapolis, he said. He spoke with officials from other local companies and Franklin College, and found they were doing the same, he said.

“There is a need for this,” Edwards said.

Edwards also said they plan to give presentations to other businesses and the college if plans for the hotel are finalized. One idea could be to work with local companies to let them rent a room in the hotel for a longer period of time for executives or visitors coming from out of town, he said.

In order to break even financially, the hotel would need to have 50 percent occupancy, he said. They are hoping for at least 75 percent occupancy, he said.

A few issues still need to be worked out, including parking, Edwards said. Their main option right now is to use street parking, but they are looking at other options.

They would also need to have funding for furniture and other items for inside the hotel, he said. Benham and Edwards have invested about $250,000 into the project, and are also planning to seek a loan, he said.

The redevelopment commission did not vote on the grant request and plan to consider it again next month.

Board member Bob Heuchan noted a downtown hotel was a possible recommendation in a past development analysis study for the city.

Benham and Edwards hope to be able to renovate the building and open the hotel by the end of the year, but that timeline may need to change based on approvals by the city, Edwards said.

By the numbers

Here is a look at a proposal for a downtown Franklin hotel:

Total cost: $905,000

Purchase price: $225,000

Facade grant: $50,000

Requested renovation grant: $158,000

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