A new Meijer store in Franklin is on track to open this spring, and several new restaurants and gas stations are filling in previously undeveloped land nearby along U.S. 31.
Two restaurants, Buffalo Wild Wings and Freddy’s, plan to build on land between the Meijer parking lot and U.S. 31. Across the street, a GetGo gas station is also planned, and another lot is being prepared for development.
Getting more places to shop and eat has been a consistent request of Franklin residents, and the coming attractions will fill in a long undeveloped site on U.S. 31 that was previously farmland.
The development in the area falls in line with Franklin’s long-term plans to use tax dollars collected from new developments to make U.S. 31 safer for pedestrians and drivers. Last year, the city created a new tax-increment financing, or TIF, district to set aside property tax dollars for new development for infrastructure projects along U.S. 31. One key concern has been to add sidewalks, trails and crosswalks to make the area safer for pedestrians headed to businesses and children heading to nearby Franklin schools.
Story continues below gallery
The centerpiece of the new development, a 200,000-square-foot Meijer store, is set to open in late spring, along with a standalone convenience store and gas station. Meijer announced plans this week to hire 300 full and part-time employees for the store. Construction is on schedule, company spokesperson Joe Hirschmugl said.
“We can’t wait for the store to be open,” he said.
Construction on Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers, a restaurant with locations across the country, is expected to begin in the spring. Once that work is underway, there should be a better idea of when the restaurant will open, franchisee Tim Rohrer said.
“Franklin has many of the features we look for when scouting areas that might make a good fit for a family-friendly concept like Freddy’s,” he said. “The Commerce Park Drive and (U.S.) 31 retail corridor, in particular, has several diverse points of interest that create a steady flow of traffic through the area and is also supported by the surrounding neighborhoods.”
The Franklin Redevelopment Commission, which will decide how to spend the money collected in the new TIF district, plans to hire a consultant later this year to estimate how much revenue the new TIF district will be bringing in, redevelopment commission member Bob Heuchan said.
“We are really early in the process right now; the fact that you see development going on is a real plus,” he said.
The priority will be making that stretch of U.S. 31 more safe and accessible for pedestrians, potentially including a walkway, sidewalks and bike lanes, Heuchan said.
All of the new developments will need to provide site and development plans and have them approved by city boards and the planning office before receiving building permits, Franklin city planner Joanna Myers said.