The classic and historic architecture of downtown Franklin and Old Town Greenwood long have been drawing cards for both communities.
They infuse each with area character and charm, so investing in maintenance and restoration are important to the continued vitality of each.
It appears those investments are beginning to pay off.
Nearly a dozen businesses opened in or near downtown Franklin last year. The Old Town area of Greenwood also has seen a new vitality, particularly along Madison Avenue.
Key will be maintaining that momentum.
In Franklin, in past years, one or two new shops might open. Mayor Joe McGuinness said more than 20 others have contacted the city about available spaces or grants to pay for facade improvements.
He said tax dollars the city has been investing in downtown streets, sidewalks and storefronts is starting to attract the new economic development the city was hoping for.
The Franklin Development Corp., a nonprofit agency created by the city and funded with tax dollars, gave out $900,000 in grants for nine projects around the downtown this summer and approved three new facade grants for $125,000 in January.
The city received a $250,000 grant from the state to help eight downtown businesses restore historic facades on their buildings.
Franklin also finished multimillion-dollar projects to improve downtown parking lots, rebuild East and West Court streets and reconstruct North Main Street.
About 20 businesses are planning, are in the process of completing or have completed facade improvements since last year. Those range from small projects, such as $5,000 for new signs and window work at Geek in Pink on North Main Street to a planned $200,000 renovation at Jeff Street Pub.
Nicole Nicoloff opened one of the new shops in downtown Franklin, Marshmallow Monkey, a vintage home accessory store.
She captured the energy of the area when she said: “Franklin has changed while keeping the integrity of the historical downtown. It makes me feel like it’s happening, and I want to be a part of it.”
Keeping and restoring the historic look of downtown Franklin was not done just to make the buildings look good again but to spur economic development. By fixing up one property at a time, officials hoped other business owners would see a newly renovated building and want to follow suit.
That’s now starting to happen.
“They have actual excitement about being in this town. You wouldn’t have heard that 10 years ago, and the revitalization effort has really gotten some legs to it,” Franklin Heritage director Rob Shilts said.
McGuinness said, “You can’t really expect or ask businesses to invest money into our community if we’re not investing back into it. If you just have a run-of-the-mill downtown, how can you expect those to pop up?”
We agree. Commercial vibrancy depends on an attractive and functional area. It is vital for the cities to maintain and when necessary improve those areas. Long-term success is impossible without it.
Older buildings with architectural character and charm are among the major attractions for both downtown Franklin and Old Town Greenwood.
Investing in restoration and redevelopment of those unique older buildings will pay long-term dividends for both communities.