Leaders mull options for Suburban Gardens

Published 8:20 am Friday, July 24, 2009

FRANKLIN—A lack of open space, monotonous, bland-looking buildings and a lack of connection to the surrounding neighborhood are some of the biggest problems with the Suburban Gardens public housing complex as it stands, according to representatives from a company proposing designs for the “new” Suburban Gardens.

The Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority, which shuttered the complex in 2007, is considering three options to replace or redevelop the complex, all of which involve more open community space.

“I think that it’s critical that there are places that people can gather and meet and be a part of the community,” Colin Arnold, of Community Design Studio LLC, said. Arnold, along with other representatives from the design company, presented an option for the complex’s redevelopment during the FRHA’s Board of Commissioners meeting Wednesday night.

Arnold said that they’re studying three options that involve either a rehabilitation of the current apartment complex or replacing the complex with townhomes or single-family homes.

While they mentioned three different ideas, the representatives from the design company only presented a detailed presentation for the rehabilitation of the complex. They said it would involve minimal construction, would add windows and would break the monotony of the apartments by adding unique elements the each one.

Arnold noted the desirable location of the complex near S.P. Morton Elementary School, the Martin Luther King Community Center and the Hayden School.

“Suburban Gardens is uniquely located to have positive benefit, once redeveloped,” he said.

After the presentation, Deborah Rowe, executive director of the FRHA, said that it was important to note that nothing was set in stone.

“It’s one idea, but certainly not the last one to be looked at,” she said.

The other plans “still have yet to be developed,” according to Rowe.

“I look forward to seeing the next option,” said Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson, a member of the FRHA’s Board of Commissioners.

Rowe said that the housing authority would like to begin redevelopment of the site in 2010, but there is a lot of work that has to be done before then.

“We have to do a lot of preliminary work, in due diligence, to get the redevelopment in place,” she said.