Residents share ideas for future of downtown Franklin

Franklin City Councilman Brent Centers listens to thoughts from resident Sky Stewart on ideas on how revitalize downtown Franklin. Community stakeholders, city officials and representatives from Heritage Ohio met for two days to assess the viability of the downtown area to eventually become a Main Street community. ED RICHTER/STAFF

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Franklin City Councilman Brent Centers listens to thoughts from resident Sky Stewart on ideas on how revitalize downtown Franklin. Community stakeholders, city officials and representatives from Heritage Ohio met for two days to assess the viability of the downtown area to eventually become a Main Street community. ED RICHTER/STAFF

The sky was the limit as nearly three dozen people gathered in Franklin to envision how it might look in the future.

All of those ideas and many more were part of a two-day Heritage Ohio Downtown Assessment Resource Team visit to Franklin that included several large and small-group discussions as well as guided and unguided tours of downtown Franklin. The Main Street program helps a local community take a look at its assets as well as its challenges and how it can revitalize a downtown district.

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Ideas that were imagined and shared among residents, community stakeholders and city officials included amenities such as a wider sidewalk along South Main Street to encourage eateries to have outdoor dining; an amphitheater; coffee shops, outdoor recreation activities; a designated outdoor refreshment area; a grocery, deli and bakery; a true town square; a splash pad; ice rink; a brewery; a riverfront park; marked historic buildings; wayfarer signage; bike racks; a cigar shop; a pocket park; public benches; a wine shop; well-lit streets and parking areas; upscale apartments with rooftop restaurants; canoe racing; an river overlook; and making Franklin a destination for people and families to spend an afternoon or evening.

“I thought it was illegal to be on the (Great Miami) River,” said resident Jenny Stewart. “There are plenty of things here that are not publicized or marketed very well.

Jo Hamilton of Heritage Ohio said that Franklin has “a lovely little downtown.”

“The riverfront is under-utilized, there’s nice building stock and it seems the community is engaged,” she said. “It’s nice to see a room filled with people who want to see something done.”

Hamilton said by having the DART visit, Franklin has become an affiliate member of the Main Street program and can access best practices and other information through its collaborative network. Once the city has completed all of the steps, it will become a full member of the Main Street program.

The program uses a four-point methodology: creating a total image for the community: providing the retail/professional area with it’s necessary market niche, creating a united visual identity unique to our community and work toward preserving our community’s location, appearance and way of life. The Main Street approach builds on existing resources and encourages community collaboration with community leaders and business owners

Currently there are about two dozen cities in Ohio, including Middletown and Lebanon, that have been designated as Main Street communities.

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Councilman Brent Centers who helped to organize the DART team visit said about 20 local people participated in the Tuesday morning tour and 36 people attended the community session on Tuesday night. About two dozen people attended the final sessions Wednesday morning.

Centers said the DART team will prepare a plan and various recommendations for the community to consider to help revitalize downtown Franklin in about 30 days.

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During Wednesday’s wrap-up session, Mayor Denny Centers said, “this is a different approach and we need to work on this with the (Franklin City) schools and the businesses we have.”

“I’m really excited about this program,” Centers said. “It’s going to take a long time to do this to help Franklin but this will benefit our community.”

Councilman Michael Aldridge agreed.

“I like getting unbiased opinions from a third part to get an objective view,” he said.

Stewart remained just as enthusiatic Wednesday morning as she was the night before.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s all about making it (Franklin) better. It’s going to take some time, but it’s exciting.”

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