In With The Old – And The New – At Franklin’s Factory
Article by Jennifer Bennhoff
Photography by Jennifer Bennhoff
Originally published in Franklin Lifestyle
Construction on Franklin Road leading from downtown to Liberty Pike will soon become a charming, tree-lined streetscape. Plans call for bicycle paths and sidewalks allowing pedestrians to walk from Main Street to the beloved Factory, its looming, distinctive water tower a symbol of Franklin’s historic appeal.
The former stove factory, recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, was recently purchased by the Nashville office of Holladay Properties for $56 million. The developers, with the help of Nashville’s Centric Architecture firm, are transforming the 310,000 square-foot collection of buildings into a “little city,” with courtyards and plazas, restaurants and shops, offices, and a vibrant blend of indoor and outdoor gathering spots showcasing the original flourishes of the 1920s buildings.
The Factory is currently forty percent occupied by businesses such as Mojos Tacos, Luna Record Shop, Honest Coffee Roasters, Times Past & Present, Third Coast Clay, and theatre company Studio Tenn. Ellie Hagan, 17-years-old and a worker at retailer Fork of the South, said she’s excited for the new changes, “and everyone else is, too. There’s so much opportunity here and I’m glad they’re finally using it.” Haven and Berkley Thacker, sisters working at drink stop Urban Sips, echoed the sentiment. “We can’t wait to go shopping here and bring our family and friends.”
On a recent fall afternoon, Allen Arender, Holladay’s Executive Vice President for Development, outlined the Factory’s future as a mixed-use shopping, dining, workspace and entertainment destination. “One of the most exciting aspects of historic redevelopment is figuring out the story that the buildings want to tell,” Arender said. He and his long-time development partner, Ronnie Wenzler of Cushman & Wakefield, have won numerous preservation awards for their transformations of Nashville industrial buildings, including an 1890’s blacksmith foundry called the Geist Building, and the Sawtooth Building, a former mattress factory.
“There’s a lot of benefit to keeping small businesses here,” Arender said, “and we’re going to be thoughtful about what goes in here and what will be successful.” Some current shops will be relocated to other areas of the Factory to accommodate restructuring. Many new businesses will be added, including anchor restaurants with up to 6,000 square feet. “Uniqueness is what makes The Factory special,” he said, “and we want businesses that are unique to Tennessee.”
Visiting those businesses will soon become more convenient, as new designs will accommodate storefronts on all sides of the main building. Stores will likely have two entrances and exits – one accessible via the interior of the building and another through the exterior. The current welcome desk and wall near the Franklin Road entrance will be removed, creating an immediate wow factor of soaring ceilings evoking industrial energy, what Arender referred to as a “Union Station feel.” The grand staircase in the main interior plaza will be removed to allow more space for gathering, and new staircases will lead to a second floor “jewel box” of retail and office areas. The 14,000 square-foot Liberty Hall will host a full schedule of corporate events, bringing thousands of out-of-town visitors to the Factory and the streetscape to downtown Main Street.
The Jamison, a 400-seat theater and home to productions by Studio Tenn, will become a year-round performance venue. “The Factory will be a place where you can go work in your office, then meet your family afterwards for dinner and a show,” said Arender. “However, not all of the action will take place inside.” While meandering the alleyways that tie together ten structures on the property, Arender pointed out historic details and courtyards that have been ignored for decades. “You can never anticipate what you’re going to find and uncover when you begin a project like this,” he said. He indicated the future locations of an outdoor wine bar, small parks with greenery and seating, plazas for concerts and special events, and quiet nooks to discover during a morning stroll. The grassy area along Liberty Pike will house structures for holiday markets and other crafts-style vendors, creating a lively, active scene around the entire site.
Inside a cavernous loft-like room in Building 40 sits an abandoned stage framed by a vaulted ceiling with original beams. “This used to be a church,” Arender said, “and we’re turning it into separate studio spaces for artists to create and show their work.” The studios will be accessible via storefronts lining the alleyways. Art galleries, photography studios, painters and other makers will become a vital part of the little city.
When asked about the popular Saturday Farmers Market that takes place in the back parking lot, Arender said the market will stay and various ideas on parking and setups are being considered to allow the market to operate more efficiently. “Discovering the essence of these buildings, and what they’re best suited for, takes time,” Arender explained. “We’re Middle Tennesseans ourselves, and we want to carefully build what is best for our community.”
We can expect to see noticeable changes around Winter of 2022. “This is a long-term project,” says Arender, “and what we’re going to have in the end is a contemporary space with a historic vibe that’s impossible to create in new buildings.”
And what about local artist Kris Nethercutt’s 20-foot tribute to factory workers, standing sentry outside Building 14? The statue is made from scrap metal and discarded machine parts to symbolize the industrial economy of the 1930’s. Arender offered his assurances. “Rusty? Oh yes, he stays.” FactoryAtFranklin.com