Franklin nears completion of downtown, riverfront revitalization plans

In the next few years, there will be a transformation in downtown Franklin and along its riverfront. This has been something city officials have been thinking about since the early 1980s.

Plans are nearly completed for the total reconstruction of Main Street which will become a two-way street with a new streetscape, sidewalks, the installation of a new water main and relining the sewer line, resurfacing, and other amenities to begin in 2023 with a targeted completion in 2024, said City Manager Jonathan Westendorf.

After the Main Street project is completed, Westendorf said the next phase will be to install new traffic lights with train preemption devices at Sixth and Main streets and at Main and Sixth streets in 2024.

ExploreResidents supportive of proposed revitalization plan for downtown Franklin

Starting in 2025, Westendorf said the focus will be along the riverfront and closing a section of River Street for pedestrian plaza to make this plan become a reality.

“We are working to make this a transformation project to make Franklin a destination location,” Westendorf said. “This is a doable project because it’s at a scale that respects the community by blending the old and the new structures and its at a scale for new businesses.”

Westendorf said this is a special opportunity to help historic buildings find new developers. He also said he expects developers to look at opportunities once the Main Street reconstruction starts.

In the concept renditions of amenities being planned by consultants from McBride Dale Clarion and Human Nature, they include a multi-use path connection; extending the civic realm from Fourth and Main streets to a festival street, interactive plaza/water features, and a grand overlook of the Great Miami River. That area will have an accessible path connecting the upper paths with terraced seating and river access; riverview swing; a history themed play environment and picnic grove at the log cabin; a brewery/restaurant with river views and outdoor dining terrace; parking and kayak access path to the river; widened alleys; and an area for future development.

Westendorf said the city owns 3,400 feet of frontage along the Great Miami River.

Ryan Geisman of Human Nature said the focus is to unify Main Street and the riverfront.

“The new downtown will be a liveable district,” he said. “This (the riverfront) is a regional asset as we create five promenades along the bike path and expand to Main Street.

ExploreFranklin works to reimagine downtown, riverfront core area

In addition to other infrastructure needs such as a parking garage, traffic engineers from CT Consultants said there will be a double-digit increase in traffic through the city with the proposed development project. Increases will also necessitate a roundabout at the west end of the Lions Bridge to accommodate passenger vehicles and semi trucks. The cost for the roundabout will be about $3 million to $5 million. Other issues include updating the city’s planning and zoning code to accommodate the downtown/riverfront plan.

“We need to look at the future growth of the west side of Franklin and we need to keep the traffic moving,” Westendorf said.

City officials said the Lions Bridge is one of the worst bridges in the state and will need attention.

Westendorf said, “time is on our side. This is a unified vision of what could be and we can overcome the issues and challenges.”

ExploreRiverfront park idea proposed for Franklin’s riverbank

Council members were supportive, but a few said they had a little skepticism.

Councilman Denny Centers said, “I was very skeptical at first. But I like it. People will scramble to get property.”

Councilman Michael Aldridge said he’d like to see one or two developers make a commitment to the project. “I don’t want the city to all of the skin in this project.”

Westendorf said he believes this project will attract developers to come to Franklin.

Councilman Paul Ruppert said to Westendorf, “you have the support of council. It’s going to cost but if we don’t invest, we’ll never get there.”

Vice Mayor Todd Hall, a longtime member of council, said, “For 20 years we have talked about this and by far this (plan) will change the city -this and the new schools. I hate that its taken this long to get here but I think it’s fantastic. This is something we need to behind it because this will change the city.”

“I believe this will happen,” said Mayor Brent Centers. “Everything is in place and we need to keep moving forward.”

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