Deal reached, project on track

The renovation of a former garment factory into a marketplace, events center and housing is back on track after an agreement has been reached as to how to protect taxpayers’ investment.

Earlier this month, developers Todd Bemis and Billy Bemis proposed the renovation of 101 E. Wayne St., a 60,000-square-foot former garment factory on the south side of downtown Franklin that is currently a storage facility. The developers are planning an event center that can host events for up to 500 people, retail space and condominiums. A building across the street would be renovated into offices, and homes next door would come down to make way for parking.

In order to complete the project, the Bemis Group asked for $1.4 million from the Franklin Redevelopment Commission for rehabilitation costs and purchasing the four homes that will become a parking lot.

But the project was put on hold when members of the Franklin Redevelopment Commission questioned whether the investment of $1.4 million from the tax-increment financing district would be protected in case the project isn’t completed. Members of the redevelopment commission, Mayor Joe McGuinness and the Bemis Group hashed out an economic development agreement in order to protect the city’s financial investment.

Developers Todd and Bill Bemis have agreed to each take out a new life insurance policy for $250,000 that names the city as the beneficiary. The city would have the rights to any rent or profits from the property, and the city will have a mortgage or lien on the property, meaning it has the right to take ownership or any proceeds from a sale if the project is not complete. If the Bemis Group does not substantially complete the project within three years, it will have to return the incentive money, according to the agreement.

The life insurance policies would not be required after the project is complete or 36 months after work begins.

In the past, city organizations have required life insurance or a lien as collateral in case a project that gets taxpayer money as an incentive is not completed or finished within a set amount of time.

The redevelopment commission unanimously approved the new economic development agreement.

The Bemis Group will also buy all six properties, then the redevelopment commission will buy the four homes from the Bemis Group to turn into a parking lot. Approximately $253,000 will be spent on the property purchases, while $1.147 million of the taxpayer investment will go toward rehabilitation of the garment factory, commission member Keith Fox said.

All six properties are expected to be purchased within the next month or two so construction can begin this spring.

The event center will be first section completed of the garment factory renovation, with a tentative opening before the end of the year. Oaken Barrel Brewing Co. owner Kwang Casey will run the event center and provide all of the catering for events, he said.

The retail shops and condominiums are expected to be finished within three years of construction, Todd Bemis said.