Over the last several months, the Senior Leadership and members of the Board of Directors of the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County attended the meetings and open houses related to Envision Franklin.  After engaging with city staff and reading the proposed draft, the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County would like to offer our perspective and raise questions concerning several elements of the proposed updates to Envision Franklin.

  • Franklin, Tennessee is revered for its decades-long commitment to historic preservation. Point A on page 18 states that, “The preservation of historic resources is of paramount importance to protecting Franklin’s heritage and memorable community character. Historic resources and cultural amenities, including structures, neighborhoods, districts, landmarks, landscapes, cemeteries, streetscapes, and archaeological sites, should be identified, preserved, and protected.”

The creation of Historic Preservation Overlays (HPO) has long benefited many historic properties in Franklin, including Main Street. While the City of Franklin has multiple local historic districts and historic preservation overlays, we recommend the city consider additional HPOs, particularly with its rural boundaries. The city should consider how it plans to work with private property owners and preservation advocacy organizations to align resources and partnerships that can continue to enhance Franklin’s historic character while protecting historic neighborhoods or greenspaces from future development.

The City of Franklin must determine its process to identify, preserve, and protect historic and cultural resources in all Franklin zip codes, including properties within the Mack Hatcher corridor and annexed land that is part of the Urban Growth Boundary south of Peytonsville Road.

With the creation of the “Development Reserve,” land that is set aside for future development, pending adequate infrastructure, the City should   fully study and survey these proposed areas prior to any development. These studies will ensure that any historic/cultural/natural resources are identified, preserved, and protected.

  • The Rural Reserve Design Concept states, “to help preserve the natural beauty of Franklin through innovative design that helps celebrate nature while transitioning from the more densely populated City to the rural County…preserved open space is a valued amenity and should be the focal point of this design concept by clustering residential uses around preserved environmental features and identified open spaces. A network of trails should be provided throughout the open spaces to provide access and encourage use of these areas.”  We applaud the City’s partnership with Franklin Preservation Partners to purchase the Creekside property. We recognize the enormity of preserving not only the landscape but offering additional open spaces and trails for a walkable, livable city.

As “Franklin Road is the last rural gateway into Downtown Franklin and commercial uses are not appropriate within this rural corridor,” the city of Franklin must consider now how to address future development off Franklin Road/Harpeth Industrial Court keeping in mind the City’s dedication to open spaces.

  • According to Envision Franklin, Compact Residential shall draw upon the “established characteristics of these historically significant neighborhoods should be preserved,” within the historic neighborhoods of Natchez Street and Hard Bargain.

We believe the City needs to address the oversight of sprawling gentrification, particularly within the Natchez Street Historic District. Though stated, “adaptive reuse of historic structures is recommended over teardowns for new construction,” many of the homes and buildings once located within the Natchez Street Historic District are no longer extant. The City of Franklin must work with current and future property owners to ensure historic and cultural resources within our historic African American neighborhoods are identified, preserved, and protected.

  • The creation of a new Arts and Culture District at the Factory is appealing. However, the vision of the City to “expand the types of uses found in the Factory at Franklin to surrounding properties in order to create a memorable destination.” does not outline the type of development that will be permitted to create this district.

We question whether this means that the City will allow further commercial development – hotel(s), multi-use residential and commercial, etc. to be constructed along the perimeter of the Factory.

The City should clearly state what specific uses will be allowed within the boundaries of this district. The City must plan for appropriate infrastructure without encroachment on historic greenspaces. There must be a plan in place to protect and safeguard our resources within the Mack Hatcher corridor.

We encourage the City to maintain its stated guidelines for building heights – at three stories with a recessed fourth – being the maximum allowed. The City should not allow for special considerations/exemptions for specific projects.

Within the Arts and Culture district, the City should consider the addition of inclusive interpretive signage that tells the whole story of this specific area in relation to Franklin.

Overall, we recommend the proposal language of Envision Franklin be more specific, particularly when outlining possible development within historic districts and neighborhoods. It is critical that, regardless of rezoning for density developments, especially within designated historic districts or neighborhoods, or land abutting such areas, local historic design guidelines be highly prioritized to ensure high-scale density developments do not envelope and overwhelm our city’s impressive historic resources. There are a few specific areas where we would ask the City to move deliberately and with an eye to retaining the prominence of Franklin’s historic zones. These are as follows:

  • Columbia Avenue to Fowlkes Street

According to Envision Franklin, Neighborhood Mixed Use, particularly along Columbia Avenue between Five Points to Fowlkes Street, should include “an overall mix of uses, but each parcel is not expected to have a mix of uses. Commercial nodes within these corridors are encouraged at intersections…consideration for future infill along the corridor is preserving existing buildings…many are historically significant buildings that contribute to the overall character of the corridor. The existing, established grid network of streets in the area along Columbia Avenue should be preserved to support infill and redevelopment.”

The City of Franklin’s Zoning Ordinance states, “two stories for buildings with frontage along Columbia Avenue or Fowlkes Street, three stories for buildings that do not have frontage on the streets listed above,” would be appropriate. We believe the City should specifically address infill redevelopment design guidelines to ensure all future building heights will not exceed two stories, particularly any rear structures situated along Church and Cummins Street, within the Columbia Avenue to Fowlkes Street footprint. While we recognize present and future growth realities, the historic corridors that spur off from Franklin’s Main Street, including Columbia Avenue to Fowlkes – including Downs Blvd, should minimize density.

Franklin Zoning Ordinance states parking for this area may have, “…surface parking serving a nonresidential use is adjacent to or across the street from a residential use, a six-foot brick or stone wall shall be installed to screen the parking area.” We recommend the City safeguard all known historic buildings within the Columbia Avenue between Five Points to Fowlkes Street and transparently engage current residents along Cummins, Church, and Evans Streets in conversations regarding the future realities of above and underground parking. We do not agree with any proposed future blasting due to the significant historic resources, including historic churches, within this area.

  • Fifth Ave North and Hillsboro Road

Envision Franklin states, “The intent is to improve upon the area and to transform the character of the built environment in order to promote a vibrant downtown core.” We commend the City for their continued contribution to the revitalization of historic Main Street. Due to known flooding realities, we recommend that the Fifth Avenue North/Hillsboro Road corridor not have significant commercial development that could unnecessarily create environmental impacts in historic downtown Franklin and the multiple historic cemeteries.

Any commercial or residential development approved for this corridor should not exceed the existing heights of one to two stories to retain the current overall historic character historic Main Street and the residential area along Bridge Street and New Highway 96.

Preservation is not solely about the past; it is about the future. We are grateful for the opportunity to speak into the plans for this exciting time in Franklin. We encourage all fellow residents, property owners, and the City of Franklin to contact us with any questions regarding our position on Envision Franklin. As partners in preservation, we want to fully collaborate and engage in best practices for preserving our historic places, green spaces, and gateways to ensure vibrancy and viability for all who live here now and