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Editorial: Buying site an investment in Franklin’s future growth

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One of the first things many people encounter when they exit the interstate at Franklin is an empty commercial site.

They used to see a deteriorating motel that had become an eyesore. But the city moved in and razed the structure for safety reasons and to make the site easier to redevelop. Now the land is close to being sold and redeveloped by a taxpayer-funded organization.

The Franklin Development Corp. made an offer of $175,000 to buy the land near Interstate 65 and State Road 44, where the former Red Carpet Inn was demolished this year. The property is part of a bankruptcy case, but the court has approved a sale.

Craig Wells, president and chief executive officer of the Franklin Development Corp., said another approval is needed through the court, but the city-formed organization hopes to be able to finalize the sale by the end of the year. The next step would be to redevelop the eastside Franklin property, he said.

The city paid to demolish the former motel earlier this year, after deeming it unsafe when parts of the building were crumbling and in danger of collapsing. Franklin Development Corp. plans to reimburse the city $80,000 for the demolition, in addition to buying the property, Wells said.

Wells said the goal is to make the property an attractive entrance into the city. He declined to discuss details but said he has had discussions with developers on what could be done with the property.

“We’ve heard some good ideas. It will be a big improvement from what the city has had to endure,” Wells said.

The property first opened as a motel in the 1970s and was ordered to close by the city this past year after an inspection found structural problems, mold, deterioration and a concrete balcony in danger of collapsing.

Owners SBMS Corp. closed the motel and began to knock out windows and remove the furniture from the rooms but did not secure the site. Police repeatedly were called to the motel, and Franklin put a fence around it. City officials got several complaints about the property being an eyesore, especially for traffic coming off the interstate, and decided to tear it down and require future buyers to pay the city back for that work.

The organization is still working out details on how a redevelopment project would work. The Franklin Development Corp. was formed by the city in 2008 and given more than $5 million in taxpayer dollars from the city’s tax-increment financing districts. That money is collected from the property taxes paid by certain companies and then set aside typically for economic development projects.

A redevelopment project could be a partnership between the organization and a developer, where the Franklin Development Corp. would invest money in the work and then get a return once the property was sold or leased. Or a developer could decide to buy the property from the organization, Wells said.

The property is zoned for mixed use, which could include different types of developments, according to the city planning office. Possible uses include another hotel, a restaurant, a medical clinic or center, offices or a health spa, according to the planning office.

The property also would have to be developed to meet the city’s gateway standards, including guidelines for the materials used on the front of the building, colors used and the inclusion of sidewalks, according to the planning office.

We commend the Franklin Development Corp. for moving forward on this matter. The city made a positive move toward improving the site when it ordered the building torn down. Now the development group is taking the next step by buying the property and actively pursuing new uses for the site.

The location is important to Franklin, both in terms of its location and for its commercial value. Allowing it to languish would be detrimental to both the city’s image and its economy. By buying the site, the redevelopment group is making an important investment in the city’s future.

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