Former city hall building not turning into brewery

More than two years ago, the plan to bring a brewery and restaurant to downtown Franklin was new, and needed.

Since then, multiple restaurants have opened, and another new brewery is planned to open on the east side of the city near Interstate 65. So now that plans for a brewery and restaurant in the former Franklin city hall have fallen through, city officials are open to considering other uses for the building.

Two years ago, the Franklin redevelopment commission approved investing $250,000 into the former city hall building. Phil Warrenburg, a Franklin resident, had proposed turning the building into a brewery and restaurant called the Old Post Brewpub. He envisioned an outdoor patio and indoor seating where people could enjoy a sandwich and a beer, while admiring the historic features of the building.

Since then, the money has gone into the building, including new windows and doors, paint, roof repairs and brick work. But the work isn’t done, and Warrenburg has proposed ending his agreement with the city.

Warrenburg cited a personal issue, and said he hopes the building will be able to be used by someone else soon.

“It’s a great property, I hope it goes to great hands, and see where it goes from here, it’s just not going to be me,” he said.

Under Warrenburg’s agreement with the city, he would need to have the work done within two years, a deadline approaching quickly, or the property would go back to the city. He has proposed ending the agreement and returning the property to the city. The city won’t get the $250,000 back, but will benefit from the work done to the building, he said. He also wants the city to lift its claim to his life insurance policy, a protection the city put in place two years ago.

And he is asking the city to refund his $10,000 initial investment into the property. Warrenburg also invested about $90,000 into legal fees, consultants and other expenses for opening a brewery, but is not asking for that money back, his attorney Eric Prime said.

The city redevelopment commission plans to make a decision on his request next month. But at least one member is concerned about setting a precedent for the city if the money is refunded.

And the city will need to decide what to do with the former city hall building, at 55 W. Madison St. The building has been vacant since city offices moved out in 2009.

Officials aren’t yet sure how the city will use the property, but are open to several options, Mayor Joe McGuinness said.

When the brewery was first discussed about three years ago, downtown Franklin needed a new restaurant, he said.

“There wasn’t an overabundance of activity in downtown,” he said.

But now, that isn’t necessarily the city’s top need, he said.

He hopes to hear from developers or investors interested in the building, but also is open to the city keeping the property, he said.

Possible options include a visitors center, where local nonprofits, such as Habitat for Humanity or Discover Downtown Franklin, could be located or a co-working space for start-up businesses and entrepreneurs, he said.

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