Tuesday, May 3, 2016

FDP Celebrates 15 Years of Collaborations

We are celebrating 15 years of collaborations and partnerships, projects and progress! Check out our Revitalization slide show (right-hand column) to see more before and after photos.

15 Years Strong: The Franklin Downtown Partnership Works Toward Vision of Revitalized Downtown Center

It began with a few business owners, some community leaders, a town employee, and several Franklin residents who wanted to revitalize downtown Franklin’s development, help recreate the town center as a destination, and help stimulate economic growth.

Fifteen years, three new mixed-use buildings, 25 beautification days, three greenspace areas, new benches, new trash barrels, one bronze statue, nearly 40 events and downtown strolls, one Streetscape and Roadway Improvement plan, and 200 members later, the Franklin Downtown Partnership is planning even more collaborations and improvements in the heart of Franklin.

“It’s truly all about the word ‘Partnership.’ Our goal has always been to stimulate economic growth by bringing community groups, the town, businesses and residents together and putting ideas to work that improve our downtown,” says Lisa Piana, FDP Executive Director.

“We’ve worked on impactful projects behind the scenes; things that have cultural, beautification and historical importance and improve the quality of life in town.”

East Central Street furniture building, 2005.

Over time, many people have forgotten the 
dilapidated furniture store building on East Central Street, which is now the home of The Cake Bar, Maguro House and Dean College student housing. Others have forgotten the abandoned rental car lot on West Central Street across from THE BLACK BOX and Mac City. That location is now commuter parking and greenspace.

Franklin Commons building, East Central Street, 2015.

Strawberry Stroll, 2007, West Central Street greenspace.

Projects like these illustrate the non-profit Partnership’s mission – to stimulate economic development; to bring residents, business owners, and community leaders together; to encourage cooperation; and to provide leadership for the purpose of revitalizing downtown Franklin.

“We started with the main belief that a strong, thriving downtown is the heart and soul of Franklin. Interestingly, we have a lot of members who are not downtown businesses who understand that. The connections we create make the difference. It has taken all of these people coming together over the past 15 years that make the Partnership work,” says Jane Curran, a founding FDP board member.

In 2001, the group started with only eight members. By 2015 the organization had grown to nearly 200 member businesses, groups and residents. Many of those have been members for more than 10 years. In the past 15 years the FDP has had a hand in at least 25 projects (see related article).

“In that time I’ve seen the organization grow to 200 members, and I’m very proud of the way we work cohesively together on to these important projects,” says Nicole Fortier, FDP President for the past 12 1/2 years.  “Positive changes require great ideas, countless volunteer hours, and, often times, funding and support from our town council and state representatives, and we’ve been very successful in leading these collaborations.”

Franklin Town Administrator Jeff Nutting says in 2001 the Town Council made the revitalization of the town center a priority and began working with the FDP. According to Nutting, the Partnership has played an important role in the overall economic development of Franklin.

A flurry of new building on East Central and Summer streets, greenspace installations, downtown gateway signs, and creation of a statue in front of the Historical Museum in the early 2000s slowed when the U.S. economy struggled beginning in 2007. The Partnership continued to hold seasonal events downtown as a way for the community to socialize and to draw interest to the area. The group also solicited members’ ideas and opinions about the Roadway and Streetscape Improvement project.

Park and statue at Franklin Historical Museum

When road construction is completed in late summer, downtown Franklin will be safer for pedestrians and have a more welcoming appearance.

“During construction our main focus is on supporting the businesses that are downtown today. We currently meet with town officials every two weeks to keep members up to date. We are planning another progressive dinner and new ways to bring people into the center of town,” says Lisa Piana.

The group is also making a strategic plan for life after two-way traffic and working on aesthetic improvements, including banners for the light poles. Organizers are busy planning the annual events as well.

The Partnership’s Strawberry Stroll will happen June 9, the October Stroll will be October 6 and the Holiday Stroll is set for December 1. The group is lining up networking events and guest speaker presentations, and will also lend support to the Franklin Cultural District Committee’s Summer Arts Festival in July.
Volunteers, Senator Spilka at Summer Street ribbon cutting ceremony.

(L to R) Jim Vallee, Jeff Nutting, Jane Curran, Lisa Piana
with gateway signage downtown Franklin.
The Partnership and the Town of Franklin both agree that the finished downtown project will attract more private investment to the area.

“A vibrant downtown is a core value of a community. People identify with a nice downtown, one that’s an attractive place to socialize, dine out, and do business. An improved downtown improves rents, and improved rents improve the town’s bottom line,” says Town Administrator Nutting. 

“We’ll still have challenges,” he continues. “Parking is one we’re continually working on; it’s a problem faced by every downtown. The future of Franklin is about redevelopment of old warehouses and manufacturing space, and upgrading buildings downtown. We just have to keep going. People still need a social network, service needs, unique places to shop. The challenge is finding the right mix of businesses that will do well in downtown Franklin, and the Partnership can help us do that.”

 According to Fortier, when the streetscape project is completed this summer and traffic flow is improved, the downtown will be much closer to what the Partnership envisioned many years ago.

“We’ll be able to feel the change in downtown Franklin,” says Fortier. “As an organization, the Partnership will continue to drive foot traffic to the center of town and invite interesting and unique businesses and restaurants to move here. We’re not done.”

The Partnership invites residents and business owners to participate in discussions about what they would like to see in their downtown. The group relies on sponsorship, membership dues and donations to fund events and oversee projects. Resident memberships are $25, and business memberships start as low as $100.  


A Busy 15 Years for the FDP: Our List of Projects

Projects the Partnership Has Been Involved With Over Past 15 Years

1-The multi-year $7.25 million Streetscape Improvement Project
2-The Franklin Commons Development

3-The Cake Bar patio on East Central Street
4-The Summer Street patio area and green space
5-The green space sitting area on West Central Street
6-The design of the green space in front of the Historical Museum
7-The bronze statue of the straw hat boy in front of the Historical Museum
8-The park benches in downtown
9-The downtown changeable gateway signs

10-The new trash and recycling barrels
11-The downtown holiday decorations and lights
12-Beautification and flowers throughout the downtown

13-The launch and early management of the Farmers’ Market
14-The Food Elves “12 Days of Donating” campaign
15-The Franklin downtown map and brochure
16-Emmons Street development property
17-The 150 Emmons Street green space and Horace Mann Statue
18-Franklin High School scholarships
19-On-going Economic Development
20-The Annual Strawberry Stroll

21-The Annual October Stroll

22-The Annual Holiday Stroll and Tree Lighting
23-Progressive Dinner and Third Thursday Events
24-On-going community outreach and business support

25-Won’t you join us this year for our next exciting downtown project?

Download this list here. Check out more of our revitalization projects, including before and after photos, on the slideshow at the top right corner of this website.

A Brief History of the Streetscape Construction Project

We appreciate everyone's patronage of the Downtown Franklin businesses during the Roadway and Streetscape Improvement Project. When finished later this summer, downtown Franklin will be beautiful!  

Here's an overview of the project milestones. More detailed information can be found on the Town of Franklin's website, http://franklinma.virtualtownhall.net/Pages/FranklinMA_Planning/dtimprovement.

Completed section of Main Street near Dean College.
Period light poles are part of the overall improved appearance. 

A Brief History of the Franklin Streetscape Project

Even though construction began in April 2015, the Town of Franklin’s Roadway and Streetscape Improvement Project has been in the works for nearly 15 years. Ultimately the Streetscape Project will improve traffic circulation and road conditions, improve emergency response times, and improve pedestrian safety while enhancing the downtown’s overall appearance and promoting private sector investment.

Throughout the process, the Franklin Downtown Partnership worked to ensure downtown business owners’ and residents’ opinions about design issues affecting downtown were represented. The FDP currently is helping spread the word about the project’s progress.

2001 – The Town of Franklin began working with the MassDOT and engineers on roadway improvement plans. The Franklin Downtown Partnership was created to help revitalize the downtown area and promote economic growth.

2006 – The late Senator Edward M. Kennedy presented a $5 million federal grant check to the Town of Franklin to help fund the Roadway and Streetscape Improvement Project.

2008-2010 – The Town and engineers conducted several transit and parking studies, and improvement project plans were reviewed and discussed in a series of public meetings. 

2012Draft plans for the project were completed, and a 25% Design Public Hearing was held.

2013The Town obtained easements required for the project, MassDOT approved the plans, the State released funds for the project, and the process of vetting contractors and awarding contracts began.

2015 – Construction began in April.

2016 – Project due to be completed in August.

More information about the Roadway and Streetscape Improvement Project can be found on the Town of Franklin’s Department of Planning & Community Development webpage, http://franklinma.virtualtownhall.net/Pages/FranklinMA_Planning/dtimprovement.


An Open Letter to the Franklin Community

Dear Franklin Community:

The Franklin Downtown Partnership would like to thank all of you who have supported the Downtown efforts over the last 15 years. We especially would like to thank Jeff Nutting, Town Council Members, State Senator Karen Spilka, Representative Jeff Roy, former Representative Jim Vallee, former Partnership Board members, the DPW, the Planning Department, the Building Department, the Police Department, the Franklin Garden Club, Dean College, and all of our many business sponsors and volunteers.  We could not continue our work without the support of our 200 members.

The Franklin Downtown Partnership’s mission is to stimulate economic development in Downtown in order to create a positive impact throughout the area. The Partnership is a pro-active organization that brings residents, business owners and community leaders together, encourages cooperation, and builds leadership for the purpose of revitalizing Downtown Franklin.

We look forward to the next 15 years, and we invite residents and businesses to become part
of the on-going revitalization efforts of your Downtown. Please visit our website, franklindowntownpartnership.org, or the Partnership office at 9 East Central Street.


The Franklin Downtown Partnership Board of Directors:
Nicole Fortier/Dean Bank, Scott Martin/Hockomock Area YMCA, Roberta Trahan/Resident,
Cyndi Rich/Emma’s Quilt Cupboard, Gregg Chalk/Dean College, Pandora Carlucci/Franklin
School Department, Jane Curran/Jane’s Frames, Gary Donelan /Middlesex Savings Bank,
Matt Lechter/Dean College, Bryan Taberner/Town Planning Department, Beth Wierling/Resident