Bicentennial Park upgrades will create new event space for Franklin

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Bicentennial Park pavilion

The existing pavilion at Bicentennial Park in Franklin has not been widely utilized. After proposed park updates, the structure would become an anchoring presence in the park.

Significant upgrades are coming to the closest park to downtown Franklin. 

At Tuesday night’s city work session, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen heard a draft ordinance to contract with Barge Design Solutions in the amount of $385,000 for designing Bicentennial Park’s upgrades. 

According to the proposal rendered by Barge, the city’s 10-acre park will receive an overhaul, focusing largely on the current pavilion space. Structural upgrades, a fire suppression system, ceiling fans, electrical and lighting service, and a loading ramp are in the designs.

Other proposed features include:

• Interpretative signage recognizing the Interurban Rail line route which ran through the park

• Pedestrian Plaza

• A statue interpreting the 13 virtues of Benjamin Franklin, originally proposed by Leadership Franklin

• A greenway trail connecting North Margin Street with the currently existing trail along the Harpeth River

• Outdoor lawn event space, with room for a rotating public art exhibit

• A main parking lot with 52 spaces, with an additional 10-20 spots slated for North Margin Street. The main parking lot would be located in the meadow to the back of the park, towards the Harpeth River.

There are two possible costs for the project, City Engineer Paul Holzen explained.

The city had originally budgeted $4 million for the total cost of the project, but the opportunity to add permanent parking changed the plan, upping the total cost for the upgrades to $8.6 million. Adding permanent parking spaces would bring it to $9.4 million.

The original plan included an artificial turf area that could be used for parking during big events. The land is currently in the floodplain, but Holzen said the city could change the zoning to allow parking, as parks are often built near flood zones.

Both Aldermen Bev Burger and Margaret Martin expressed concern for downtown employees who struggle to find parking. 

City Administrator Eric Stuckey pointed out the parking lot just south of French’s Shoes & Boots off Hillsboro Road would soon be redeveloped with 35 spaces. He said 200 new spaces had also been recently added at the Harpeth Hotel.

“How much of our responsibility is to provide free parking?” Stuckey said. “I would strongly urge you not to eat up parkland for a parking lot.” 

Alderman Brandy Blanton asked her fellow board members to think carefully about how popular the spot could become for event space, given its proximity to downtown Franklin.

Parks Director Lisa Clayton said the goal is to get the parking part of the project approved during a March meeting so the city can work to bid the project out by the fall. Construction should begin in 2021.

“Whatever is decided, there will be additional parking, and that’s important in our downtown,” Clayton said.

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