Former motel property now in city hands

A long vacant piece of property off Interstate 65 could be a key part of what the city uses to bring new businesses to the east side of Franklin.

After more than a year of discussions, the city has reached an agreement with the county to get the former Red Carpet Inn property, located at 2180 E. King St.

What will happen next has not yet been decided, but interim Mayor Steve Barnett sees the property as a key tool that the city can use when attracting new development to the area.

The nearly 3-acre property was once the site of the Red Carpet Inn, but the former motel building was demolished by the city in 2012 after being vacant and abandoned. Since then, more than $350,000 in back taxes, fines and liens had accumulated on the property.

The property had been to the county’s tax sale, an auction where bidders can buy properties for the taxes owed, multiple times, and had not sold.

Former Mayor Joe McGuinness had been working with the county to get the property given to the city, forgiving the back taxes, in exchange for parking spaces in downtown Franklin for county employees. But that agreement had stalled, and most recently the property had been set to go to the county’s certificate sale, where abandoned properties can be sold for less than the taxes owed.

Barnett and county commissioners reached an agreement last week, and are working to finalize all the details.

Under the agreement, the city gets the former motel property, and the county gets a guarantee that parking spaces west of the county’s courthouse annex building, located at 86 W. Court St., will be reserved for county employees, Johnson County Commissioner Brian Baird said.

Baird said he thought the agreement was fair to both the county and the city, and allows the city to continue moving forward with redeveloping the east side gateway into Franklin, while giving county employees a guaranteed place to park.

The parking lot the county employees use is in a floodplain and could not be developed. County government also is one of downtown Franklin’s largest employers, and giving employees a place to park could also free up other spaces around downtown for shoppers and visitors, Barnett said.

The former Red Carpet Inn property is also key to the redevelopment of the east side, and the city is talking with developers who are interested in that area, Barnett said.

“That property is a valuable part of what we are doing on the east side,” Barnett said.

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