Saturday, March 22, 2014

Board of Directors Letter to Franklin Town Council

The following is the letter the Board of Directors sent to the Franklin Town Council last week.

Mr. Robert Vallee, Chair
Franklin Town Council
Office of the Town Administrator
355 East Central Street
Franklin, MA 02038

March 18, 2014

Dear Mr. Vallee:

The Franklin Downtown Partnership has had thoughtful discussions with many of our members over the last few months regarding the town-owned Emmons Street property.  We have listened to the concerns of important downtown stakeholders such as The Franklin Performing Arts Company, Simon’s Furniture, Artistry Kitchen and Dean College.  These are businesses that have invested heavily in the downtown area and will continue to do so in the future.  We have also spoken to residents, downtown business owners, building owners, members of the Downtown Partnership, the Historical Commission and the Franklin Art Association.

There is a consensus among these stakeholders that the town of Franklin should not approach this very important matter hastily and rush into writing an RFP to sell the Emmons Street property, which will serve as an important "Gateway" to downtown Franklin. This was evident during the March 4th town workshop when community members developed several different concepts which did not involve selling the property.

In the opinion of the Partnership, the time required to offer due diligence to the many interesting proposed uses of the property and the immanent physical changes to the downtown infrastructure render the Emmons Street property a subject that requires more time to determine the most beneficial course of action.

Therefore, we are requesting that the Town Council suspend issuance of an RFP for one year until after the following facts are known:  

1)    What the new traffic patterns will be on Emmons Street and West Central after the Streetscape project and the two-way traffic pattern is implemented.
a.    This information is vital before any new retail is established in this busy intersection and causes additional traffic issues.
b.    The  new traffic patterns that will result from the implemented streetscape project will provide the Town with more reliable data to help determine the best means of access to, and circulation within, the Emmons Street Property and to ensure that traffic does not back up to the Davis Thayer School.

2)    What the parking needs will be during the next 12 months with the current and new businesses, especially during construction.
a.    It is important to understand the growing parking needs of current businesses before losing the 50 parking spaces to new retail development.
b.    It is critical that the downtown businesses have a place to park during the streetscape project construction.
3)    What funding is available for non-commercial development such as greenspace/park, cultural arts center or a combination.
a.    It is important to give the community a chance to develop ideas and research funding sources.

Moving ahead without knowing these facts is not only doing a disservice to the community, but may be devastating to the economic development of the downtown.  We believe that the value of this property will increase after the streetscape project is completed so it would be prudent to wait.

The Franklin Downtown Partnership has over 200 members, and our mission over the last 12 years has been to improve the downtown and encourage economic  growth by working with residents, business owners, town and community leaders. We feel that this is one of the most important properties in our downtown and we have an opportunity for careful, long-term, creative thinking by the community and town officials. The Emmons Street property is a prominent "gateway" to downtown, and represents an opportunity to substantially impact the downtown's perception and character. The Town is in an advantageous position in that it controls this important piece of real estate. This parcel's development can have a positive impact on the downtown, and, by extension, the community at large.

The Downtown Partnership looks forward to working with the Town Council, the Planning Department and community leaders to find creative solutions and funding to develop a “Gateway Property” that everyone will be proud of. We encourage the Council to give the community a chance to support the vision of a vibrant downtown that has been outlined in the Master Plan.

Thank you for your time and consideration regarding this important decision.  We believe that only through careful and thoughtful planning will our community determine the best direction for the downtown and this important “Gateway” property.

Sincerely yours,

Franklin Downtown Partnership Board of Directors

Nicole Fortier/Dean Bank, Joel Carrara/Printsmart,
Cyndi Rich/Emma’s Quilt Cupboard, Roberta Trahan/Resident, 
Del Arnold/Historical Commission, , Pandora Carlucci/Franklin School Department,
Gregg Chalk/Dean College,Jane Curran/Jane’s Frames,
Gary Donelan /Middlesex Savings Bank, Dave Drucker/Dean College,
Mary Graff/Berry Insurance, Scott Martin/Hockomock YMCA,
Angie McMillan/The Cake Bar, Jim Schultz/Resident

Lisa Piana/Executitve Director-FDP