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Editorial: Eight downtown buildings to see new look in spring

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Franklin’s historic downtown has always been one of its defining images. But over the years, remodeling has left some buildings looking either out of place or slightly worn.

Now with the help of local and state grants, eight downtown buildings will get a new look as soon as this spring. And the owners themselves are required to help in paying for the work.

These improvements represent a clear investment in the community and are to be supported.

The buildings, including a restaurant, theater and three attorney offices, were constructed in the early 1900s and have been remodeled. But business owners say the renovations used designs from different eras and made the buildings look out of place.

The business owners are getting $450,000 from a state grant the city applied for and from an agency created by the city. The money would pay to replace awnings, fix cracked bricks and redo storefronts to make the buildings look more like they originally did.

The state grant, called the Main Street Revitalization Grant, will pay for $250,000 of renovations. Franklin Development Corp., which was formed and funded by the city, is putting $200,000 toward the project, and the Johnson County Community Foundation is providing $2,000. The businesses each will pay 5 percent of the cost.

Architects are working on designs for the work that will be done and working with business owners on what they want.

Business owners and city officials hope the improvements will give the area a more uniform style and will draw more people to downtown Franklin.

The business owners who received the grants were chosen through a study done in 2011, said Craig Wells, president and chief executive officer of Franklin Development Corp., which is helping pay for the projects.

DLZ, an architectural firm in Indianapolis, is working on designs for the eight buildings and, in upcoming weeks, will speak with the business owners about what they want to include, Franklin Director of Operations Matt Zimmerman said.

To meet the requirements of the state grant, designs must be finished by the end of March and the city has to issue permits for construction by the end of May. Work on the buildings will begin after the permits are issued, and it has to be finished by the end of next year.

Local business owners say the improvements will include a renovated marquee at the Artcraft Theatre, new siding for Lighthouse Antique Mall and a new overhang for Shelter Insurance, all of which they say couldn’t have been afforded without help from the state and local grants.

The development agency agreed to help pay for the projects because one of its goals is to help downtown business owners renovate their buildings, Wells said.

Improving the downtown will enhance the area and at least stabilize aging buildings. In addition, it helps develop a more uniform look, avoiding the hodgepodge of architectural styles that marks the cores of too many Hoosier cities and towns.

And requiring business owners to pay part of the costs creates a more-than-emotional investment in the project.

As one building owner put it, it’s to everybody’s benefit if downtown does well.

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