In the coming months, more than $17 million in road and trails construction projects will begin in Franklin, and more work is planned in the future.
Infrastructure was a key focus of Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett’s second state of the city address Thursday.
This year is set to be a big year for construction, with work planned on Jefferson Street, King Street and Eastview Drive, including adding three new roundabouts along the city’s truck route. The work will lead to detours and some traffic headaches, but the projects need to be done now so that the city doesn’t lose nearly $10 million in federal and state funding to pay for the work, Barnett said.
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Projects include phases five, six and seven of the project to rebuild Jefferson and King streets, along with adding new roundabouts along Eastview Drive at King Street, Upper Shelbyville Road and Hurricane Road. The city will continue work to redevelop the gateway into Franklin along King Street at Interstate 65, while also adding a new road in the business park off Graham Road and extending Brookhaven Drive, from the Heritage neighborhood to Commerce Parkway, he said. And that’s all in addition to $1.5 million in paving projects the city is planning as part of its annual maintenance work, he said.
Those projects will allow the city to become an even more attractive place for businesses to locate, Barnett said.
“They want to be here because we are investing in ourselves,” he said.
And Barnett wants to see more work in the future. Potential projects include creating a park and amphitheater by redeveloping the area of downtown where the city is currently buying flood-prone businesses, as well as improvements to help with traffic flow on U.S. 31 and to make that corridor more pedestrian friendly, he said.
Long term ideas include a new 300-space parking garage in downtown, Barnett said.
That parking will be especially necessary with the increase in popularity of downtown events and businesses, along with the continued development downtown, he said. For example, the Garment Factory, an event venue planned to hold up to 600 people, opens in April, and when the Pavilion at Franklin reopens, it can hold up to 300 people.
The city continues to attract new businesses, including 14 new shops, restaurants and offices opening downtown in 2017 and 20 opening in other areas of the city, he said. Businesses continuing to be encouraged to come here through tax breaks offered to them, he said. In 2017, nine such tax breaks were granted, as well as 13 facade grants, he said.
“This is economic development at its finest, that much in one year,” Barnett said.
One long-awaited project the city hopes to see moving forward soon is the redevelopment of the site of the former Red Carpet Inn, off King Street and I-65. A developer is interested in building a hotel there, and now the city is working with the county to get the needed paperwork to forgive back taxes that have accumulated in recent years. The new hotel will join the Fairfield Inn currently under construction, just west of there off King Street and Paris Drive.
The redevelopment of the east side of the city, near I-65, is continuing, allowing the city to have three main corridors for business, Barnett said.
“We are lucky. We don’t just have downtown. We have U.S. 31, and soon we will have I-65,” he said.
The work that is continuing this year is important to help build on the success the city has already had, including 50 new high-paying jobs that are planned to be added by companies who announced their plans to come to Franklin last year, Barnett said.
“Two-thousand-eighteen is going to be a big year on this journey to excellence,” he said.
On the list of work to come: adding more trails, bringing the city’s total network to more than 16 miles; continued studies into drainage projects along Youngs Creek that will continue to improve upon the work done so far; a new inclusive playground planned in Blue Heron Park that a group of students are continuing to raise money to build; and a new parking lot off South Main Street that is being built on land the city got through its buyout of flood-prone business properties, which will be the first phase of the city’s Youngs Creek Greenway Trails project.
Barnett also wants to continue partnering with other local governments, including Franklin schools. The city and school district are sharing IT services, and the police department is planning to have a school resource officer starting next school year. In the future, Barnett would like to see an officer dedicated to the elementary schools, middle school and high school, he said.
And as more businesses come to Franklin, that will only help by bringing in higher values of property and more taxes for all local governments, he said.
“The city’s momentum is building, and I’m looking forward to shaping this city for generations to come,” he said.