Upper-floor apartments come to Franklin

Published 11:56 am Saturday, November 3, 2018


After several months of renovation, two apartments located on the second floor of the brick storefront on West First Avenue that houses Stepping Stones Counseling Services are now complete. Both have already been rented, according to building owner Mike Smith.

Each roughly 800-square-foot unit includes the building’s original floor boards and exposed brick walls, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, shaker cabinets, a large bathroom, an included washer and dryer, a walk-in closet, fluted pillars, wainscoting and crown molding, among other amenities. Each rents for $1,400 per month, and includes all utilities, even cable TV and internet.

The kitchen in each unit includes shaker cabinets, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.

“Research indicates the modern professional wants a stable, all-inclusive rental fee,” Smith said.

“Taking unused second-floor spaces in the historic buildings and converting them to modern living spaces is a popular trend throughout the country,” he added.

And more such apartments are on the way.

Smith, who also owns and operates Main Event in downtown Franklin, is in the process of converting that building’s second floor into four more units. He and his fiancee, Lauren Davis, plan to build a total of 12 units along Main Street.

“Each unit will honor the historical aspect of the building they are in, highlighting each building’s unique characteristics and charm,” Smith said. “No cookie-cutters on these high-end units.”

“This would not have been possible a few years ago,” he added. “However, today, the city of Franklin is lucky enough to have great leadership on City Council that recognized upper-floor housing was a vital step to the overall revitalization of downtown Franklin.”

Franklin’s City Council amended its B-2 zoning ordinance to allow mixed-use zoning downtown on June 4, 2015.

Smith also credited Franklin’s Community Development Director Donald Goodwin and Amanda Jarratt, president and CEO of Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Inc., and her team, for their help in making his dream of downtown apartments a reality.

When asked what “sold them” on moving into one of the completed apartments on West First Avenue, one resident who requested anonymity said, “I love the idea of walking to restaurants, shops, comedy shows at Main Event, We Be Jammin,’ the Franklin Cruise-in and other events downtown.” The other cited the all-inclusive monthly rent.

Several downtown business owners and employees also expressed enthusiasm for the idea of upper-floor apartments coming to the city.

“I hope more come,” said Lori Cary, an employee of Aesthetics by Naomi.

“I think it will be great for business,” said Mike Parker, one of the owners of Vintage.

Coldwell Banker realtor Christine Hill said that the second and third stories of that building were just being used for storage, and that the business does not have any other plans for the space. However, she said she thought apartments might be a good way to utilize the space.

Tim Bradshaw, owner of Insercorp and the Bradshaw Building on Main Street, said, “I am in full support of upper-floor housing and am excited about what Mike Smith is doing with his property. I had pushed for downtown to be re-zoned for mixed use to allow upper floor housing since 2008 through grassroots efforts. It was the focus of my agenda during my tenure with the Downtown Franklin Association Board of Directors and the City of Franklin Business Friendly Committee.”

Bradshaw added, “Decades ago, it was a normal thing for people to live above their shop or business, and I would love to see a return to that. I am sure we would see less burglaries if more people lived above or next to businesses. Increasing our residential population will automatically increase the City’s tax revenue and lead to more retail and dining customers by bringing more foot traffic to Main Street.”

As for the Bradshaw Building, which is two stories, Bradshaw said that while he has no plans to convert the upstairs into apartments, the building does have 2,000 square feet of office space available, which he hopes to rent to professionals and small businesses.

One business owner who expressed concern with the idea of apartments downtown was Parker Darden of Parker Darden Heating & A/C. His concern was residents potentially being trapped on the second floors of their respective buildings if the city were to have another flood event like Hurricane Floyd, which caused the Blackwater River to rise to 23.6 feet in 1999.

Smith estimates that the four units on the second floor of Main Event will be complete by Jan. 1, at which time he will turn his attention to 204 and 202 N. Main St.

The first floors of these buildings are occupied by Perfected Praise Worship Center and Jim’s Pawn Shop, respectively.