$80 Million Downtown Franklin Development Unveiled

The Harpeth Association held a town meeting to discuss the plans for a boutique hotel complex in downtown Franklin. The meeting was well received by the standing-room-only crowd filling the auditorium at the Franklin Theatre. Many questions were asked and most of the answers are forthcoming, but the crowd seemed to believe that the Harpeth Association has Franklin’s best interest at heart.

Rod Heller and Jay Franks are no strangers to Williamson County and both have been involved in preservation and development for many years. They have a vision revealed Ron, “a boutique hotel like Blackberry Farms and the like,” with retail and condos or high end apartments finishing out the block. “As long-term owners, we want our project to be viewed 20 years from now as having been a splendid addition to a uniquely attractive place to live and visit and as a catalyst for planned growth. We believe that, as the dynamic and diverse economy of Middle Tennessee continues to expand, Franklin increasingly will become the geographic, historic and cultural center of the greater Nashville Metropolitan area. We see a second Renaissance for Franklin.” When asked late in the program on what happens if plans run over budget and what might get cut in the planning Rod said, “We will not compromise our vision.”

Jay Franks (left) & Rod Heller
The hotel will have 100-120 rooms, the planning for dwellings is estimated at around 200 and there will be about 40,000 square feet of retail. The major concerns from the audience centered around the location of and type of retail, parking and paying for the garage, increased traffic and shopping flow concerns. Those in attendance were primarily business owners and residents in the immediate area. Rod commented that keeping the “CoolSpringification” effect out of the area is a concern.

The hotel is planned to be an integral part of Franklin and will help set the town up as a destination city. The increase in retail is estimated at an approximately one-third increase to existing space and management of who will move into the locations has yet to be determined. Currently the plan is to have the hotel front Main Street, which brought out many concerns.

Mayor Moore was first to express his opinion that “retail space needs to be on Main Street.” Following suite was a couple of local retailers and even Rod himself understood and agreed with the concept. The problem they are having is the amount of space they have to develop within the block, especially if the last piece they were hoping to acquire does not pan out. Many of those in attendance suggested the hotel face the river but that will ultimately be up to the developers and architect.

Rod explained that this is not just their project, it is downtown Franklin’s project. The city will be highly involved in the planning. Mayor Moore said “this is the kind of development we envisioned for downtown, I love their vision.” A river walk around the Harpeth connecting all the way to Carnton was discussed as a possible side to the project as well and everyone liked that idea. Many things are up in the air at this time and there is a chance the project will not move forward at all. Harpeth Associates has put their faith into the idea and will try very hard to make the project stand the test of time, be financially successful and benefit the community.

The $80-$85 million project is expected to bring in total revenue expenditures to the city over a 10 year period in excess of $170 million. The figures are preliminary and will be refined as things move forward. Mindy Tate with Franklin Tomorrow asked about the timetable for development and that to is uncertain. It will take the city approximately a year for surveys and infrastructure enhancement and approximately 2 years for development of the hotel so it will be three years before the first patron spends a night at the hotel.

A lot of questions remain unanswered but it is apparent that Harpeth Associates intends to be transparent and flexible as this project becomes reality. Stay tuned for future updates.

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