City moving forward with shell building project

Three years after constructing a building to entice an employer to come to Franklin, the city is preparing to start the process again.

A second shell building, which consists of four walls and a roof but is unfinished on the inside, is on track to be completed in early 2017.

So far this year, at least 16 companies have contacted Johnson County officials, looking for a 50,000- to 250,000-square-foot building, Johnson County Development Corp. chief executive officer Cheryl Morphew has said.

By building another shell structure, a business could move in and customize the space within a few months, instead of waiting nearly a year to construct a new building, said Runnebohm Construction executive vice president Chris King. Runnebohm partnered with the city to build the first shell building in 2013.

Members of the Franklin Redevelopment Commission are willing to commit up to $100,000 toward building materials, design work and surveys for the facility.

Next month, the city board will consider the total cost of how much to invest in the shell building.

The new structure is slated to be built on Graham Road, across from the county animal shelter and next to Premium Composite Technologies. About 70 acres of land is available, and 12 or less acres will be used for the new shell building, with room for expansion. The cost of purchasing the land and who will own the property will be determined next month.

Runnebohm plans to start designing the building and will give officials a more accurate cost estimate, King said. The shell building will take four or five months to construct after all supplies, such as concrete, are received, he said.

King asked that the city board give him some assurance the project will be done, since it has not yet been approved.

Early next month, the board plans to meet to vote on a proposal that promises up to $100,000 will be reimbursed to Runnebohm for any development costs if the project falls through.

King estimates the building materials and design work will cost around $50,000. If the city backs out of constructing a shell building, the redevelopment commission would have to repay Runnebohm for those costs, plus a cancellation fee, King said.

Later in June, the board will be able to see the total estimated costs of the project, and vote on moving forward with building the structure and how much involvement the city will have in the process. At this point, the board has not been given a total cost estimate for the project.

Three years ago, the city pledged to invest up to $550,000 toward a shell building on Graham Road. Nine months after completion, the building was sold to Hetsco, a company that conducts routine and emergency maintenance and construction management and labor for power plants and industrial operations. The city spent more than $100,000 on expenses related to the building, and gave the company more than $300,000 in incentives.

About 19 shell buildings are available statewide, Morphew said.