Head out to the east side of Franklin, and you will see a transformation taking place, with new sidewalks, repaved roads and features that will welcome visitors to the city.
The project to revitalize the east side gateway into the city is one officials have been talking about for years.
But a $15 million loan the city took out last year finally allowed the project to get started.
That loan, which extended the life of three of the city’s tax-increment financing, or TIF, districts, gave the city the cash needed to start that project, and several others around the city.
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A year later, nearly all of that money has been committed to projects, which is what city officials said they intended to happen.
The largest commitment — more than $4 million — is to create the gateway to the east side, which also includes work to reroute Paris Drive off King Street and add in the infrastructure, such as sewer service, that businesses would need to locate in that area. Another $2 million was set aside for work in downtown Franklin, including adding parking.
When officials began discussing the loan option, they already had the east side project and several others in mind, said Bob Heuchan, president of the redevelopment commission that oversees the spending of money in the city’s TIF funds and approved the loan.
“We didn’t go into this with no ideas,” Heuchan said.
Borrowing the money was a big step, and one the city had never taken before. The city could have borrowed more but decided not to, he said.
The loan allowed the city to keep three of its TIF districts in place longer, after state law set an expiration date for those taxing districts if they have no debt, and the money borrowed could go to larger projects the city had been considering. Those three TIF districts generate about $1.4 million per year, or about half of all the city’s TIF income, and will continue at least five more years, generating about $7.3 million more that could be used to pay back debt and fund other projects.
But that also means other local governments, such as the school district and library, won’t collect taxes from the areas those TIF districts include for longer, since TIF districts set aside property taxes from new development for infrastructure and economic development projects.
Once the work is done, including the infrastructure needed to bring new businesses to the east side, that area is not included in a TIF district, so tax dollars from new development will go to other local governments, such as Franklin schools, Heuchan said. That was a key reason the school district supported the loan, he said.
The city had to move quickly, since the money has to be spent within three years, said Krista Linke, the city’s director of community development.
When officials considered approving the loan, they already had a list of projects. The east side was one focus area, after the city had a study done showing the potential and the work needed to grow that area, and another was redoing Jefferson and King streets, after the city took over that section of what used to be State Road 44 from the state, she said.
“We pretty much had it spent before we issued the bond. We knew where we wanted it to go,” Linke said.
The city is expecting a good return on its investment with the loan, mainly with economic development coming to the east side, Mayor Joe McGuinness said.
“The only way to do that is to get these projects going, and get them going today,” he said.
Here is a look at the projects the city of Franklin has committed nearly all of a $15 million loan to and their estimated costs:
West Jefferson Street parking lot
West Jefferson Street reconstruction
Design work for King Street and Interstate 65 gateway
West Jefferson Street trail design
King Street, between Edwards and Forsythe streets, reconstruction design
Westview Drive and Jefferson Street roundabout design
Hoosier Brewing Co. incentive
Geotechnical and environmental work for King Street
Repair of 351 E. Jefferson St.
Repairs at Artcraft Theatre
King Street reconstruction, between Forsythe and Edwards streets
Garment Factory and Wayne Street reconstruction projects
Purchase of four homes on Wayne Street
Right of way for King Street and Paris Drive project
King Street reconstruction and Paris Drive roundabout
2015 Interstate 65 interchange economic development plan recommendations
Jefferson and King Street project
East Jefferson Street parking area