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Franklin panel OKs new use for old dime store

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The former G.C. Murphy building, 56-58 E. Jefferson St., has been owned by a local government since 2009.
The former G.C. Murphy building, 56-58 E. Jefferson St., has been owned by a local government since 2009.

By next year, a downtown Franklin building could be home to a restaurant and meeting hall after being vacant for more than four years.

The Franklin Redevelopment Commission approved an agreement to sell the former G.C. Murphy Building to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge No. 1818. The Franklin Elks are turning the large downtown building, 56-58 E. Jefferson St., into their new lodge and event space and remodeling part of the building to be rented to Aunt Judy’s Country Kitchen, a restaurant that plans to move from its current location.

The city board is selling the building for $1 and also providing up to $200,000 to help the Elks club make façade improvements and interior renovations. The board has been trying to sell the building since last year and had received two rounds of proposals, including a visitor center, pawn shop and office space.

Members of the board have said they chose the Franklin Elks because the group presented the best plan to renovate the building to be useful to the community and had the money to back the project.

The G.C. Murphy building was purchased by Johnson County government in 2009 to become office space after the 2008 flood in Franklin destroyed the former Oren Wright building, which housed several county offices. County offices never moved in, however, and the building was exchanged with the city during a land swap in 2011. The redevelopment commission has been trying to find a new owner for the building.

The Elks will receive a $100,000 grant from the Franklin Development Corp., a nonprofit agency created and funded by the city, to help renovate the building façade, which will include adding windows and doors to the west side of the building, where the restaurant will be.

The redevelopment commission will provide up to $200,000 to help pay for the façade, interior renovations, fire protection upgrades and building permits and legal expenses from the property transfer.

The Elks will spend about $250,000 of club money on the renovation project.

The first floor will be renovated for Aunt Judy’s Country Kitchen, which is moving downtown from another location in Franklin, and bar and meeting space for the Elks. The second floor will be used for a community event space or banquet hall, and the basement will be renovated for storage and office space for the Elks and the restaurant.

Board member Rob Henderson has suggested having a $200,000 mortgage on the building in case the Elks don’t start or complete the renovation within one year. Then, the city would have a way to recoup that money. If the project is substantially completed in one year, the redevelopment commission will remove the mortgage, Franklin community development director Krista Linke said.

Earlier this year, the redevelopment commission selected the Elks proposal for the building, which most recently housed an antique mall and was a five-

and-dime variety store before that. Board members and their attorney had been working on the contract between the city and Elks since April. The Elks also finalized building plans and got approval to do the project from local members and the club’s state and national offices.

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