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Green space eyed for empty lot in downtown Franklin

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A Franklin couple who own a downtown business have a vision for a new landscaped garden downtown that includes sculptures and a sitting area.

Richard Goss and Meg Jones looked at the vacant lot south of their business, Richard’s Market, and can see nearby Province Park. They have planned a garden that would connect to the park and include a hedge maze, trees, shrubs, flowers, a gravel Zen garden and sculptures.

The Franklin Development Corp. will provide $90,000 toward the total $200,000 garden. The organization approved the garden as one of nine projects totaling about $900,000 in grant funds.

The development corporation started with $5 million from tax-increment financing districts, which set aside some taxes collected on businesses in the city for economic development.

The arts garden

The Franklin Development Corp. approved a $90,000 grant to help Richard Goss and Meg Jones build an arts garden south of downtown. The $200,000 garden would be given to the city parks department after completion.

What: Parking lot and public arts garden that would feature trees, shrubs and flowers, a labyrinth, Zen garden, tables and benches and sculptures from local artists.

Where: South of Richard’s Market, 229 S. Main St. The arts garden would connect with a trail that leads into nearby Province Park.

Cost: $200,000 total. The Franklin Development Corp. gave a grant of $90,000 to Goss and Jones for the project.

When: The project could be completed by December, according to the proposal.

The board gave grants and loans to four projects totaling $1.2 million in the fall.

The funding will allow Goss and Jones to make use of the small lot south of their market and pizza restaurant that was once an outdoor garden shop.

“We’d always thought about adding to this part of south Franklin by having something in there. It just came on us. Meg is obviously into the landscaping and the planting. We thought with her skills and the skills of other artists, we could put something together that would add to the city,” Goss said.

The garden would feature sculptures from local artists, similar to the kind of art that lines the Polk Hill Trail in Greenwood, Goss said. The small park also would have a gravel garden where people could rake patterns into the stones as well as having benches and tables for people to sit.

According to preliminary drawings, a new parking lot at the site will be edged with shrubs, and the garden would have a planted labyrinth with bushes and flowers that will need to be trimmed, watered and maintained.

The $90,000 provided by Franklin Development Corp. will pay for the garden materials, plants, construction design and artwork. Goss and Jones own the land and will donate it to the parks department as well as pay for construction and furniture for the park.

The park board will consider the project this month and decide whether to take ownership of the park in the future, Franklin parks superintendent Chip Orner said. If taken over by the city, the arts garden would connect with a nearby trail along Youngs Creek that leads into nearby Province Park.

The Franklin Development Corp. will only provide the funding if the city agrees to take over the garden after its built. Without the grant money, the couple wouldn’t be able to afford the garden, Goss said.

With the proposed additional plants in the garden as well as the new trees and flowers from streetscape projects around the courthouse, Orner is concerned about being able to keep up with landscaping at all of the park-owned property in the city.

“As we add more green space — landscaping, flowers, trees, shrubs, bushes — I think we have to take a good look at if we want those things to stay looking nice,” Orner said. “There is a cost to it. That cost is people, equipment, everything, and I think we’re to the point where we can’t add any more.”

Orner has four part-time landscapers who work about 30 hours per week between April and September. He plans to ask for a fifth part-time landscaper, which would cost the city about $5,500.

The city could consider hiring an outside landscaper to help maintain trees and shrubs in the city, which might be less expensive than hiring another seasonal worker, Franklin City Council president and board of works member Steve Barnett said.

He was surprised that the garden idea hadn’t been presented to the board of works for discussion. Although the Franklin Development Corp. already has decided to pay for part of the project, the city hasn’t had a chance to study whether it wants and can afford the new garden, Barnett said.

“I’m certainly in favor of beautifying our downtown and making it more eye-appealing, but you have to figure out who is going to take care of it,” he said.

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