The Heritage Foundation of Williamson County acts as an advocate for best practices in historic preservation. We recognize, and value, our partnership with the Historic Zoning Commission in promoting the preservation of so many valuable parts of our community. Recently, our elected municipal officials approved the Middle Eight Development project. Though we appreciate the intentionality of the Middle Eight developers in many aspects of their plan, for example, the creation of spaces that bring people together from all walks of life, there are components of that plan which will not only negatively impact the character of our community, but also risk the preservation of important historic resources. As a result, we respectfully request that you, as arbiters of the Historic Zoning Ordinances, ensure that the development preserves the character of our community and consider requiring the following recommendations:
- We recommend that the building height be limited to 2 to 3 stories.
As provided in the Historic District Guidelines, the Franklin Road Design Goals and Policies unequivocally state that building height will be limited to 1 or 2 stories. The current design has three high-density buildings exceeding 3 stories.
As currently designed, the development will tower over the surrounding neighborhoods and dominate the approach into downtown Franklin.
We recognize that recently some commercial buildings have been permitted above the 2-story limit. It should be noted, though, that neither of those buildings are as close to Franklin Road or with such an unimpeded view from autos going into downtown.
- We recommend that building density be reduced to be relative to the surrounding community providing more accessible greenspace.
The Franklin Road Local Historic Design Guidelines in its Goals and Policies promote the idea that new construction should maintain a balance of buildings, roads and open spaces. The current design includes 225 apartments, plus 3 townhouse buildings, 12 duplexes, and 6 single family homes on a 7.2-acre property. In addition, the commercial components of the development only increase the traffic and people on the property at key hours of the day. Moreover, the number of people living on this property alone far exceeds any acreage within the historic district.
Further, the Franklin Road Design Goals and Policies suggest that it is desirable to maintain the established rhythm and spacing of buildings relative to the established context of the immediate area. The purpose of this, partially, is to provide an uncongested gateway into downtown. Permitting the number of residents on this property, and at this intersection, would negatively impact the flow of traffic into, and out of, downtown Franklin.
- We recommend that overall design of the development (including, but not limited to building materials, cornice heights, window designs, overhangs, and roofing materials) align with the surrounding community.
In order to maintain the historic character of the area, and the gateway into downtown Franklin, the development should reflect and maintain key characteristics of the established areas. Though the developers have made great strides in improving the appropriateness of the duplexes, townhomes and single-family homes, the apartment buildings will significantly impair the communities surrounding the development as well as the initial approach to downtown from Franklin Road. For example, the glass commercial entrance to the building in no way assimilates with the surrounding community or the historical feel of Franklin.
- We recommend that in order to preserve any potential historic resources and artifacts from destruction during the construction of the development, ground penetrating radar and an archaeological survey be completed prior to the commencement of construction.
It is acknowledged that this property had significant usage during the latter days of the Civil War, including being a leaping off point for self-emancipated enslaved persons seeking asylum. In addition, the historic Truett farm on the property has its own opportunity to leave historic resources and artifacts. Allowing the destruction of the soils without first ensuring the preservation of potentially undiscovered items could deprive Franklin of irreplaceable history and culture.
Please allow us to respectfully remind you that historic preservation was the first smart growth movement. Action-oriented communities have long argued that the revitalization of existing buildings and communities reflects the wisest form of economic redevelopment. When existing communities are revitalized, we limit sprawl, preserving greenspace and historic character. Preservation and development can symbiotically work together to ensure the preservation of what people love about a community while adding growth and development to meet the needs of the future. However, the Middle Eight development, as currently proposed, disregards the character of the existing community, and it is that character that has made Franklin, TN one of the most desirable communities in the country.
In closing, we respectfully request the Historic Zoning Commission remember what has made Franklin, Tennessee what it is today and ensure what so many people, including the members of this commission, the neighbors of the Middle Eight development, and the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County, have worked so hard to give to future generations. We hope that our recommendations will assist you.