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Franklin board OKs Elks lodge plan

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A Franklin board has decided that a long-vacant building downtown will be best used as a new lodge and meeting space for a local service group.

The Franklin Redevelopment Commission has decided to negotiate with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge No. 1818 on a contract to purchase the former G.C. Murphy building, on East Jefferson Street, which has been government-owned and vacant since 2009.

The Franklin Elks group plans to turn the building into a new lodge, meeting space and banquet hall. The Elks will lease part of the first floor to Aunt Judy’s County Kitchen restaurant, which would relocate from its current location on Jefferson Street, east of downtown Franklin.


The Elks proposed buying the building for $1, and the group would seek about $200,000 in grants to renovate the building’s façade.

The Franklin Development Corp., a nonprofit agency created by the city and funded with tax dollars, has offered up to $100,000 for the facade work. The Elks are asking that the redevelopment commission provide matching funds for the work, said Franklin Elks exalted ruler Bob Swinehamer. The redevelopment commission also might provide funding to install a fire sprinkler system in the building and increase the size of the water line serving the building.

During the next 60 days, the Elks will obtain cost estimates for the renovation and must get final approvals. The Elks will have to conduct a lodge meeting, where at least two-thirds of the members present must vote in favor of the project, and will need to get approval from the state and regional offices of the Elks organization.

The contract would have to be approved by the redevelopment commission before the property is transferred to the Elks. Board members Bob Heuchan, Rob Henderson, Richard Wertz and B.J. Deppe and Franklin community development director Krista Linke are all members of the Franklin Elks. Board attorney Rob Schafstall suggested that none of them work on the negotiations in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

If the board and the Elks are unable to reach an agreement, members might choose to negotiate with Yeager Properties, which submitted a proposal to turn the building into office suites for small business.

A third proposal for the building by Franklin residents Tom and Amy Grimmer for a city market was withdrawn, Schafstall said.

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