Franklin explores downtown improvements, seeks advice

Revitalizing downtown Franklin has been on the city’s list of things to do for years, and while there have been improvements, city leaders want to make a stronger effort.

Councilman Brent Centers said a group of people have met with a representative of Middletown’s fledgling Main Street program to learn more about that program and how it can help the city’s downtown business district.

Over the years, Franklin has conducted studies and completed plans that focused on spurring economic development for the city and its downtown from a strategic approach, Centers said.

Main Street is a program that is administered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Heritage Ohio and works with communities across the state to revitalize their historic or traditional commercial areas, according to its website. It is a practical strategy that is scaled to a community’s local resources and conditions, and the initiative stems from local issues and concerns.

A community receives the Main Street designation based on a number of criteria in the program’s four key points — the downtown’s design and appearance; downtown marketing and promotion; organization of the individuals and organizations that have a stake in the economic development of downtown; and business enhancement/economic development.

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Mallory Greenham, executive director of Downtown Middletown Inc., has been working with downtown Middletown businesses to become a Main Street community. She is moving forward with her goal of getting downtown Middletown designated as a Main Street Community.

“It is never about one thing to revitalize,” Greenham said. “It’s working deeply in all four points all at the same time in revitalizing a town.”

Local businesses in Middletown began efforts to become a Main Street community more than 10 years ago, but it was not until 2011 that the local effort officially organized and is currently an affiliate member of the program. Greenham said the effort is planning to submit its final paperwork as early as next week for official accreditation.

“We’re glad to help out,” Greenham said. “Seems like the (Franklin) group seemed very interested and passionate as they felt it was time to start a program like Main Street.”

Prior to becoming DMI’s executive director, Greenham worked in getting the Main Street program in Marietta fully accredited.

Centers said he hopes to see a forum set up to get feedback from local residents, business owners and other stakeholders to help determine what assets the city has that it can expand upon as well as issues that the city still needs to address. He said he wants to find out what’s working, what’s not working and what assets are needed.

“After the forum, I hope to have at least five priorities to present to council at our February goals meeting,” he said.

The city is also in the process of contacting Heritage Ohio to schedule a visit to provide a third-party assessment of the downtown area. That visit will provide the local group a better idea of their strengths and weaknesses as well as possible obstacles and threats to reaching Main Street status. It will also provide tools and networking for the local group.

“It would be interesting to hear from someone else (about downtown Franklin),” said Councilman Todd Hall.

Councilman Michael Aldridge agreed, saying that “it would be good to get an outside look.”

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