Visitors center idea gets new look - Committee forming to revisit proposal for vacant building

Two proposals to redevelop a vacant downtown Franklin building have been turned down, but one is being reconsidered by city officials.

The Franklin Redevelopment Commission asked for proposals on how to redevelop the former G.C. Murphy building on Jefferson Street and received two proposals. A local resident proposed using the building as a banquet hall and catering facility, and a group of local agencies proposed a visitors center and office space.

Both proposals asked for funding or other assistance from the commission, which oversees the spending of property taxes collected from certain businesses and typically spent on economic development.

Members of the commission turned down both proposals, but the idea of adding a visitors center and office space is getting another look. Commission members, the Franklin Chamber of Commerce, members of the Franklin Development Corp. and city officials are forming a committee to consider and tweak the proposal to see if it can be approved.

One of the ideas they are considering is finding a way to have the Franklin Chamber of Commerce own the building, instead of a city board or city government, board members said.

Resident Jim Cruiser proposed that the commission give him the building and he would get a loan from it or elsewhere to remodel the inside and turn it into a banquet hall. Members of the commission turned down that proposal, raising concerns that they didn’t have enough details about finances and Cruiser did not yet have a loan for the work.

The initial proposal from the Franklin Chamber of Commerce was for a visitors center and office space for the organization and for small or start-up businesses in the city.

Their request was for the commission to continue to own the building and pay utilities and maintenance expenses for five years. Then, the agency and the commission could discuss who would own the building, based on costs and how much money was collected from rent in new office spaces.

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