During an hour-plus joint workshop Dec. 9, OHM Partners and Studio 8 Design took feedback from the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the Franklin Municipal Planning Commission about the broad plan for a modern three-story, 112,500-square-foot building to replace the 1970s-era converted shopping mall the city’s growth has made obsolete.
Alderpeople and planning commission members expressed general support for how the initial design envisioned a more inviting and functional facility.
“This is not for the next five years; this is for decades out, and it is exciting to be part of this,” Ward 3 Alderperson Jason Potts told the designers.
The plan will be back for possible approval in February, a move that would allow schematic drawings to be contracted for and an up-to-date cost estimate, Assistant City Administrator Vernon Gerth said.
“Because time has passed and things have changed,” Gerth said.
Plan guided by input
In early 2021, the plan’s design consultants, Studio 8 Design and OHM Designers, started community engagement efforts, which eventually collected 650-plus resident responses to a 12-question survey and the opinions of 110 city workers.
Assistant City Administrator Vernon Gerth said two overarching tenets guiding the plan were to create a flexible design to accommodate the space needs of city services for a growing population and a building whose design “respected” the prominence and historic character of the town square at Third Avenue.
“We feel we’ve accomplished these two goals,” he said. “The preliminary master plan is about mass; it’s about scale; it’s about concepts about how we will operate inside the building and a lot of pictures. You won’t see architects yet because that will come.”
The resident survey results showed consensus for ampler community space, public art, accessible restrooms and an entrance facing the public square.
Designers concluded a building that would meet the city’s desired function would require a below-ground parking structure. The plan includes a structure with 204 spaces, which would free up spots in the 299-space Second Avenue parking garage, Studio 8 Design architect Anna Ruth Kimbrough said.
The first floor would include a lobby entry plaza, an information desk and coffee kiosk, staff meeting rooms, and space for court and revenue services.
The second floor would house the city’s growing development services department, including building and neighborhood services, planning, fire administration and engineering space, and outdoor green roof terraces.
The third floor would include purchasing, human resources, legal and finance offices of the city and also feature an outdoor green roof terrace.
The floors would be connected by a monumental staircase, a feature that would provide a better view of different program areas, Roux said.
At ground level outdoors, designers are proposing a widened pedestrian promenade between 231 Public Square and the entrance of the building to make the entrance more open and inviting.
The city of Franklin Capital Investment Plan has $24.1 million set aside for the future project, not including an additional $8 million for parking.
City Administrator Eric S. Stuckey said the project would cost significantly more. Early in 2022, city financial staff will provide more information about the city’s ability to pay for capital projects.
“There is additional capacity above what we have as funded or approved projects,” Stuckey told the group. “This project can’t always be forever five years away. We have to make progress.”
Ward 1 Alderperson Beverly Burger praised the overall design, including the central staircase connecting floors offering an opportunity for walking within the building. The proposed facility would be built to LEED Silver standards.
“Elevators are time wasters, and stairs are great for exercise because when you’ve been sitting at your table all day, you need to be up and down, and you want to be using the stairs,” Burger said. “People don’t want to open a door and climb a cinderblock staircase.”
Others suggested that some aspects of the plan geared toward greater accessibility should be vetted.
Ward 4 Alderperson Patrick Baggett asked how a first-floor coffee kiosk or cafe would operate as a commercial enterprise during City Hall hours.
“You walk into our building and the prefunction space, and are we in a cafe or are we going into the building?” Baggett said. “I think there are some considerations there.”
Baggett also noted the designers spend time how many parking spots the city might need for workers in coming decades. By 2040, the city is projected to have 246 employees.
“We have 200 police now. I think we should be very serious about our projection about how many people this building could support in the future,” he said. “We’re building a much bigger building here.”
Alderperson Clyde Barnhill said he was concerned that the project may spend significantly to duplicate already available private meeting spaces in the city.
Barnhill said a project significantly higher than the $24.1 million already set aside might face an uphill battle competing for capital dollars in the city’s 10-year capital budget schedule.
“We better make sure we get a hold of what we’re doing and what we want here,” Barnhill said. “This thing has evolved into I don’t know what. But I can almost promise you: It doubles $24 million.”