Plans for a redesigned entrance into Franklin got a boost with a $1.8 million grant, which will pay for walkways, lighting and landscaping that visitors and residents would see as they come off Interstate 65.
But the city wants to do more to develop the eastside and is getting ready to start a study to investigate how to get new restaurants, hotels and businesses around the exit.
The city was awarded a federal grant for sidewalks, lighting and landscaping from Eastview Drive to I-65, which will pay for 80 percent of the construction costs. The city also recently received grants to build a trail along its truck route and new sidewalks downtown.
The streetscape work near the interstate will be the last leg of a more than $12 million project to redevelop all of Jefferson and King streets, from just west of U.S. 31 to I-65.
The city also plans to rebuild and repave the entire street after the state turned over ownership of the section of State Road 44. The streetscape work is part of an overall plan to beautify the city and connect walkways, with a goal of attracting more people to visit.
But city officials also are spending $59,500 to do more focused planning about what kind of businesses, subdivisions or industries they want to attract to the area around I-65. The plan will determine what kind of development is best for the area — whether it’s hotels, restaurants or office buildings — and will include ideas on how to entice developers to build, Mayor Joe McGuinness said.
Eastside residents will be asked to give feedback as part of the planning process because future development should cater to both residents and visitors, McGuinness said.
“You’ve got some nice homes with some food and hotels, and the National Guard armory is an asset to the community. We want to have things to accent that and showcase that and what’s going to get people to pull off the interstate,” McGuinness said.
“We want to fill in around that with some additional amenities that are going to be nice for our residents and for those that are visiting.”
The study will look at the area roughly bordered by Paris Estates, Bartram Parkway, the National Guard Armory and Hillview Country Club and help determine what else is needed besides a new roadway and sidewalks, he said.
The study will include interviews with residents and business owners about their needs and wants. It will study traffic data to determine who gets off the highway in Franklin and where are they going. And consultants will poll developers to get feedback on the positive aspects of Franklin, as well as drawbacks that would stop them from opening franchises, McGuinness said.
The consultant is the same person that Greenwood used to help plan its new Worthsville Road exit, so Franklin can expect to get a similarly detailed plan, said Cheryl Morphew, Johnson County Development Corp. president and chief executive officer. Developers continue to eye the nearby tech park for new warehouses or factories because it’s so close the interstate, which could add new industry on the east side of the highway, she said.
Last year, a 64-acre site was temporarily taken off the market because a company was interested in buying it for an expansion, Morphew said. The company eventually decided not to expand, but the city got very close to landing a new development, she said.
The city also has been working to improve the look of the area.
Franklin already has some requirements in place that new buildings in the area have to use higher-quality materials. Properties along King Street to Milford Drive are designated as a gateway, which means they have to have more brick or decorative stone, more windows, landscaped walkways, and decorate entryways and roofs. Those types of features can be seen on buildings such as a recently built gas station and shops and the Affordable Dentures office.
Next, the city is looking to replace the center guardrail along King Street with a curbed, grassy median and have decorative lighting similar to the kind already installed downtown. A walking trail will follow the north side of the street, while a new sidewalk would be built on the south side. Those new walking routes would connect with the intersection at Eastview Drive, which might be turned into a roundabout.
With the new grant and money from the state for taking over ownership of State Road 44, the city should have no problem paying for the sidewalk and road work, McGuinness said.
The city likely will begin design work on those projects within the next two months, but construction wouldn’t start until at least summer 2017 when the grant money becomes available. The road work has been tentatively planned for 2018 after the city rebuilds Jefferson and King streets west of Eastview Drive.