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More than $160,000 going to downtown projects

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As drivers enter downtown Franklin from the west, they’ll be greeted by a historically restored service center and two new businesses by next year.

The Franklin Development Corp., an economic development group created and funded by the city, is putting more than $160,000 into three building renovation projects in the downtown.

The projects will help two new businesses, Geek in Pink Computer Repair and Gray Goat Sports, open shops in Franklin and help downtown business owner Dan Paris remodel the historic White Star Gas Station at Jefferson and Walnut streets.

The three projects exemplify the role the Franklin Development Corp. should be playing to help revitalize the downtown, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.

“(The city) has obviously set forth a plan on revitalizing the downtown, and our priority should be the infrastructure, the lights, the sidewalks. The FDC should be trying to fill the economic development role,” he said.

The three projects will total about $325,000 in interior and exterior building renovations and business investments, such as employee salaries, in the downtown within the next year.

The development corporation board approved grants for the projects along with six others, totaling about $900,000 in funding for city businesses and agencies. The organization was created in 2008 and funded with an initial $5 million in tax dollars from tax-increment financing districts, which set aside some taxes collected on businesses to be used for economic development.

Gray Goat Sports, a southside cycling business, will invest about $150,000 to open a store on the first floor of the Hazelett building, 25 E. Court St. The development agency is paying $80,000 to help with interior renovations on the building, which is being reconstructed by the Bemis Group.

The organization already has provided the Bemis Group with up to $400,000 to renovate the building, which will house The Daily Journal on the second floor. Some of the $80,000 provided to Gray Goat Sports will go to the Bemis Group to make modifications to first floor for the shop while the building is under construction, store owner Brian Gootee said.

Gray Goat Sports operates a store at State Road 135 and Stop 11 Road, but Gootee expects the Franklin location could post $1 million in annual sales.

Gootee, who is a frequent visitor to the Indigo Duck restaurant, which is just down the street, and whose parents are from Franklin, has been waiting for the right opportunity to expand his business. With the ongoing improvements, such as the courthouse square streetscape project and facade improvement program, now seemed like the right time to open a shop that could become a destination for cyclists.

“That’s definitely one of our hopes is to be able to bring people into Franklin. We’re targeting areas south on (Interstate) 65, people not having to drive all the way up to Indy,” Gootee said.

Geek in Pink owner Regina Miller also has Franklin roots from her years studying at Franklin College and thinks her Greenwood business has grown enough to support another location.

Geek in Pink serves about 6,000 customers by making service calls to homes or offices or fixing computers people drop off. Many customers come to Greenwood from Franklin or farther south, and the multiple downtown offices could provide new, nearby customers.

The $6,000 provided by Franklin Development Corp. will help with some minor exterior and interior renovations around the front window of the 25 N. Main St. location. The company is investing about $23,500 to renovate the long-vacant building, will hire five to eight people and spend about $144,000 per year to operate in Franklin.

Miller originally intended to install an awning over the large storefront window but likes the natural light coming in. She will instead use the cash to install store lighting and do some minor renovations to the building façade around the window and door.

The development agency also is helping to make one major exterior building renovation by providing $75,000 to Paris for the White Star Gas Station.

The building, at 298 W. Jefferson St., was built in 1924 and has been owned by Paris and his family since 1964. The building currently has a small office that is rented on a temporary basis and is a storage site for Paris’ classic car collection and gas station memorabilia.

The $150,000 total project will replace windows and doors and repair concrete and brick floors, walls, chimney and roofing. The upgrades will improve the overall condition of the building without significantly altering the historical look of the station, according to Paris’ project proposal.

Once completed, Paris’ building would give visitors a glimpse of the historic downtown as they enter, McGuinness said.

“It’s really the first commercial building you see as you’re coming into the business core of the downtown,” he said. “I think his proposal really cleans that up and kind of sets the tone as you’re coming in.”

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