Condos coming to downtown Franklin

By Abby Armbruster | Daily Journal

When a new biomedical lab decided to locate in downtown Franklin, the owners wanted to create a place where employees could work, shop, eat and live.

For years, city officials have talked about developing more housing in downtown Franklin, envisioning condominiums or apartments above shops and offices. In the past four years, the city has focused on improving downtown spaces for offices, shops and restaurants.

And now, a new development will bring high-end homes to the downtown area, where new residents can join the dozens of other families who have moved into downtown Franklin within the last year.

The Bemis Group will include a handful of condominiums — called the Residences at the Garment Factory — into its renovation of 101 E. Wayne St., in addition to retail space and an event center. Depending on the demand, the developers anticipate four to 10 condominiums will be built, and can be custom-sized to single- or two-level homes, co-owner Todd Bemis said.

The new condominiums will be on the south end of the 65,000-square-foot building, so residents can have a view of Youngs Creek and Province Park, co-owner Billy Bemis said.

The only other condominiums in the downtown area are the Carnegie Commons, which were converted into five homes more than 20 years ago. All five homes are occupied, said Bob Weaver, who designed the homes in the mid-1990s. The homes were renovated from the former county library designed by Andrew Carnegie, so Weaver made sure to keep architectural elements of the building in tact when remodeling the building, he said. Finding owners for the five condos took about three years, although not all the homes were ready to move in at once, Weaver said.

Weaver expects the new condominiums to be popular with future residents who want to be within walking distance to restaurants and retail shops, and appreciate the historical aspect of the neighborhood, Weaver said.

“I do get the impression from builders and Realtors that they have a lot of demand for property for people who want to live in downtown Franklin,” Weaver said.

Two years ago, about 57 homes were sold in downtown Franklin. Within the last year, another 67 properties sold and six more are pending, said Carpenter Realty agent Shirley Decker.

And homeowners nearby have also done work to improve their homes, including two homeowners along Home Avenue that invested more than $15,000 total into their homes. A couple on Wayne Street, who live across from the Garment Factory condominiums, have put $20,000 into their home through a Franklin Development Corp. loan, according to the organization’s records.

The goal for city officials has been to have more businesses downtown, and improve walkability for residents nearby, Mayor Joe McGuinness said. His vision has been to improve downtown Franklin in the center of the city, then work outward. For example, McGuinness wanted to fill empty retail spots in the downtown area, and now dozens of businesses have moved in within the past few years.

In addition, Monroe Street businesses have received grants through nonprofit organization Franklin Development Corp. to improve the facades of their buildings, such as Ann’s Restaurant, Marshmallow Monkey and B2S Labs.

Roads also were repaved, more parking spaces added and better sidewalks put in to encourage residents to park, eat and shop downtown.

Now that homeowners and business owners are pitching in to improve facades, renovate existing buildings and beautify the city, more residents and companies will want to make Franklin their home, McGuinness said.