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Franklin fields new interest in vacant building

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Two new groups are interested in a vacant building in downtown Franklin for new shops or as a new lodge and events hall.

A local business owner wants to turn the former G.C. Murphy building on Jefferson Street into new retail space and use the second floor for apartments or offices. A local lodge also could move into the building, but the group is just beginning to look into whether they can afford the property.

Members of the Franklin Redevelopment Commission, which owns the vacant building, are considering both ideas after two other proposals were dropped last year.

The building has been vacant for more than three years, and members of the city board have said they want a business to move into the building and pay property taxes.


A business owner and a local lodge are interested in the former G.C. Murphy building on East Jefferson Street in Franklin. Here are their ideas:

Who: Bob White, owner of White’s Home Improvement

What: Put in a pawn shop, antique store and outdoor sporting goods shop on the main level, an archery range and supply shop in the basement and apartments or offices on the second floor.

Proposal: White would purchase the building for $1. He plans to ask the redevelopment commission and Franklin Development Corp. for help with $125,000 for facade renovation and $100,000 for interior work. The redevelopment commission would also pay property taxes through 2015.

Who: Franklin Elks Lodge No. 1818

What: Renovate the building and use it as the new Elks Lodge.

Proposal: The Elks are still planning and studying the feasibility of getting and renovating the building. If the group decides to move forward with the project, a proposal will be submitted to the redevelopment commission in 60 to 90 days.

Robert White, who owns White’s Home Improvement, would like to put in a pawn shop, antique store and outdoor sporting goods shop on the main floor, add an archery range and archery supply shop in the basement and renovate the second floor to become either apartments or offices.

His proposal is to purchase the building for $1 from the city board. He also asked that the redevelopment commission and the Franklin Development Corp., a nonprofit organization that was created by the city, help pay for the renovation work. He has asked for an estimated $125,000 for the building façade and $100,000 for interior renovations, as well as having them pay property taxes for the building through 2015.

The Franklin Lodge 1818 for the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks Inc. is considering turning the building into its new headquarters, esteemed leading knight Bob Swinehamer said.

The group is looking into the cost to purchase, renovate and maintain the building and, if the group can afford the project, would submit a proposal to the city board in the next three months.

But one issue the city board should consider is that the Franklin Elks Lodge, a tax-exempt organization, would not pay property taxes on the building, Swinehamer said.

Board members said they are looking for the best person or group to renovate, maintain and work in the building, whether they pay taxes or not, board member Jay Goad said.

The Jefferson Street building has been government-owned since 2009, meaning property taxes are not being collected. The building was originally purchased by the county for office space after the 2008 flood but was then traded to the city before being given to the redevelopment commission.

The commission reviewed proposals last year from a Franklin resident and Franklin Chamber of Commerce, but neither group was able to afford the cost of the project.

White has considered the business idea for about two years, and became interested in the building as a possible location recently, he said.

“I think I can throw some business downtown,” he said.

White’s Home Improvement, which he has owned since 1979, would perform the renovations, which could include $300,000 to $600,000 of improvements.

Those numbers are estimates until he gets input from the city board about what improvements they would like to see on the building’s exterior, he said.

The Franklin Elks Lodge also is interested in the building, but the group is not yet ready to submit a proposal.

The group has formed a

committee to look at the cost of the project, and has a building fund with about $250,000 available, Swinehamer said.

Several factors, including renovation costs, operating costs and feedback from members and the community, could lead the group to drop the idea, Swinehamer said.

The building would become the new lodge and headquarters, including a bar and hall for having meetings or events.

If purchased and renovated, the lodge would move from its location on 40 N. Water St. and attempt to sell that building, Swinehamer said.

The Franklin Elks Lodge would first need to get approval from its board of directors, members and national leadership in Chicago.

The group would likely only use about half of the 22,000-square-foot building, leaving the other half open to a potential partner, Swinehamer said.

The redevelopment commission did not make a decision about either project, and also is considering asking for more proposals from the public to see if others are interested in the building. The city board will discuss the ideas and any new proposals at its next meeting in February.

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