Franklin City Hall May 2021

What’s in a city hall?

If it’s the one in Franklin, it comes with water marks on various parts of the ceiling from a leaky roof, an outdated and often troublesome HVAC system, and office space that has never really been efficient since the City Hall building on Third Avenue South was converted from a 1970s shopping mall 40 years ago.

On a less tangible level, the question of what to include in a new Franklin City Hall pretty much runs the gamut — from appropriate work areas for city staff to components of a museum, from a place where community groups can gather to ample green space and an outdoor plaza.

These were some of the ideas discussed at Tuesday evening’s work session of the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Matt Taylor, founder of Studio 8 Design who is providing consulting services in the design process of the new City Hall, gave an early overview of the project as part of the current public engagement session.

“We have a pretty good team assembled to analyze the different aspects of what the future City Hall will look like from technology to all of the architectural and engineering design disciplines,” Taylor said as he introduced his presentation. “We’re really trying to take a broad approach in this first phase of soliciting input and feedback across the board, to help shape what the framers of a new City Hall will look like, with input from citizens, the city staff and different local organizations.”

Aldermen approved the hiring of Studio 8 last November to launch the design process to envision a new City Hall in its prominent location on the historic Public Square, with the intent of replacing the old mall building with a new City Hall facility that provides functional, collaborative office and meeting space for city business to be conducted. The consultant team has been working with staff to conduct a number of public input meetings.

In seeking feedback from aldermen, Taylor got plenty. He had used photos from other city hall buildings across the country to show as samples, but these fell flat for some in the board room.

“Nothing here is warm and inviting,” Margaret Martin, Ward 4, said of the photos showing city halls in places such as Philadelphia, Boston and Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. “Some of these look like an airport.”

Franklin Mayor Ken Moore concurred, suggesting that Taylor provide more relevant photos next time.

“I think that first you have to address that this is the place where citizens do business and there’s lots of interaction here,” Moore said. “There is obviously a lot of opportunities for community meetings and places were employees can have interactions other than just in their office and in their department, where they can have those collaborative spaces.”

Alderman-at-Large Ann Petersen also stressed the need to make the space tailored for the city employees who will be using the City Hall on a regular basis.

“I’m interested in having the good amount of office space for the people that are going to be working here,” she said. “I’m interested in taking what we’re going to do to make what we have now much better and easier, not only for people that work here but for people who come to do business.”

Ward 2 Alderman Dana McLendon suggested there be an appropriate balance between the need for safety and security measures and a building that’s not too locked down.  

“I think it’s important to have a consideration for safety, but I’ve been in too many buildings that were built as if safety were the single most important thing,” McLendon said. “It’s at first frustrating and then draining to be in a building like that. We’re not housing prisoners here. …

"When you organize a building around the concept of safety, you also organize a building around the concept of us versus everyone out there. And that is not an acceptable way to contemplate or conceptualize a city hall.”

Taylor closed out his presentation by reassuring the room that it’s still early in the process of a project expected to be completed in another five or six years. There is plenty of evolution left. 

“We want to hear what you don’t like as much as what you do like, so every step of the way we’re moving forward in a positive manner and we won’t have U-turns and major revisions,” he said. “We want everybody to be excited, and we’re going to continue to change this as we go. 

“I know we can’t be everything to everyone. We won’t make everybody happy, but we’re going to try to make as many people happy as we can. We want that feedback so we can continue to develop, and the design can evolve to make it the best it can be.”

Click here to see the project plan, and go to the city of Franklin’s Facebook page to view Tuesday’s work session.