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Heller secures battlefield property for preservation

This commercial property, located at 1416 Columbia Avenue and Fairground Street, has been acquired by Wagner Line, LLP for battlefield preservation. The transaction was initiated by J. Roderick Heller earlier this month.


In a step toward reclaiming additional battlefield property along the Columbia Avenue corridor leading to the Carter House, Wagner Line Limited Partnership late last week purchased a small commercial parcel on Columbia Ave., a site once considered for a multi-family residential development.
The announcement was made in a written statement prepared and sent by The Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County, explaining the significance of the transaction.
“The former car wash at the corner of Columbia Ave. and Fairground St. in Franklin has been purchased by a limited partnership with the intent of preserving it from inappropriate commercial development, “ the statement said.
J. Roderick Heller is principal of Wagner Line LLP, which is the purchaser of 1416 Columbia Ave. 
His limited partnership is named after Brig. Gen. George D. Wagner, who led a federal brigade that held off Confederate troops trying to regain control of the Union-occupied city of Franklin. 
The property, less than half an acre in size, is a few steps away from the site of a Williamson County Historical Society marker, which retells the events of late November 1864. 
“This parcel of land is one of the four or five most important pieces of land with respect to the Battle of Franklin,” said Heller, “and our purpose in purchasing it was to protect if from being developed into a McDonald’s or town houses.”
Operated for years as a self-service car wash, this property was purchased by Wagner Line, LLP from D. Tate Mathews, of Franklin, for $275,000 Nov. 6. It appraised earlier this year for $237,300, according to county land records.
In 2008, Mathews purchased the property for $450,000. One-year prior, the property sold for $340,000.
In the statement, Heritage Foundation Executive Director Mary Pearce noted that Heller, a descendant of Carnton Plantation’s McGavock family, and his wife Kay “are the largest private individual contributors to battlefield preservation efforts in Franklin, and their commitment to saving the places that matter is exemplary.”
The statement further stated that Heller had “stepped in to purchase the 110 acres of what is now the Eastern Flank Battle Park in 2005 when it was threatened with development. The Hellers held the property until a public-private partnership could raise the funds to purchase it, and placed a conservation easement on the property when it was deeded to the City of Franklin to guarantee it will never be developed.”
Residential plan predates land purchase
Last summer, developer Daniel Woods of the Addison Group submitted plans to the city to develop the .39-acre property as well as a request for rezoning from its current central commercial (CC) zoning to residential variety (RX) to accommodate proposed design plans. 
Woods’ proposal, submitted to city planning commissioners last summer, called for a seven-unit townhome community with in-home office spaces consisting of 1,200 to 1,400 square feet, priced at $200,000 to $250,000.
During the approval process, Woods secured passage of the rezoning request from the Board of Mayor and Alderman on the first of three readings but before the second reading in October, he withdrew the rezoning request from the meeting’s agenda.
Previously, the planning commission unanimously recommended disapproval of the rezoning request in July, although BOMA voted to approve the request 5-3 in order for the item to advance to a public hearing.
Over the past few months, preservation organizations rallied in opposition of the rezoning of the historical site. 
Commercial plans unveiled 
Heller and local developer Jay Franks are currently working on an $80 million redevelopment project that will occupy a full block of downtown Franklin between First and Second Ave., North.
This area is under restrictive development regulations called for in Franklin’s Historic Overlay District, a zoning classification that requires rigorous architectural review and approval by the Historic Zoning Commission, as well as the Planning Commission.
The multiple properties outlined for this project are held in a partnership between Heller and Franks called Harpeth Associates, LLC.
Both men held a community meeting last summer at the Franklin Theatre to discuss plans for an upscale boutique hotel and parking garage, which they said could be under construction by September. 
This week Heller unveiled additional plans for that redevelopment—a full-service grocery store that could replace a property originally built in the 1970s for the Review-Appeal newspaper by then publisher and owner James Armistead. 
Since being acquired in 2004 by the Gannett Co., for staff of The Tennessean, the one-story building on Second Ave. has remained occupied.  In recent months, the operations at that building have been relocated.

Posted on: 11/21/2013


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