Downtown Franklin seeks input on future

Published 10:53 am Friday, June 23, 2017

The Downtown Franklin Association is seeking public input on how to best shape the future of the downtown community. To accomplish this, the DFA has partnered with Sarah Milston of The Spark Mill, a Richmond-based business consulting firm, which hosted a brainstorming session at the Franklin Business Center on Tuesday afternoon.

During the brainstorming session, Milston hung five posters on the walls, each displaying a different question for participants to answer.

The first asked, “How do we bring more business to Franklin?” Answers written below included, “lower rent and taxes,” “property maintenance downtown – clean up, pride of ownership,” “more startup grants” and “bring a college satellite.”

The second asked, “What does downtown need?” Answers included improving the area by the Blackwater River in Isle of Wight County, adding walking trails and benches, adding diverse businesses such as a brew pub or light grocery, adding more residents downtown and adding upper floor housing.

The third asked, “How do we bring more shoppers downtown?” Answers included diversifying the types of businesses downtown, adding wi-fi, have businesses stay open later and hold more consistent hours, add more retail stores and restaurants and add more things geared toward younger and older people.

The fourth asked about what opportunities exist for DFA to improve. Answers included that some people felt DFA was too controlled by the city government, that DFA should be open to more new ideas, that DFA should focus more on businesses rather than hosting events, that DFA events should have a purpose, that DFA could use fresh people with new ideas and that DFA should engage all stakeholders and reach out to the whole community.

The final question asked each participant what three things could the DFA do for downtown. Answers included opening their board to new members, finding investors, developing strategies to fill vacant spaces, promoting the farmers market and cooperating with owners to make changes needed.

DFA Director Dan Howe said that this brainstorming session represents phase one of the DFA’s plan to create a brand for downtown Franklin and that phase two will include a DFA board retreat in August, also facilitated by Milston. Howe hopes that during that retreat, the board will take the feedback provided from Tuesday’s brainstorming session and use it to create new vision and mission statements.

“Our current one has been the same for over 20 years,” he said.

He added that the funding for DFA to contract with The Spark Mill came via a $5,500 Downtown Investment Grant from the Virginia Main Street Program, an initiative of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

Additional feedback on any of the questions asked during the brainstorming session may be sent to