Editor’s note:  Franklin businessman and preservationist Rod Heller, recently sent a letter to Franklin Mayor Ken Moore.  The letter has been publicly submitted here in its entirety to avoid misinterpretation.

Dear Ken: 

I am writing as President of Church Street Associates, and as a resident of Franklin, with extensive experience in both economic development and historic preservation. As you will recall, I spoke at the BOMA workshop on January 10, and want to memorialize my comments more formally.

The HG Hill Group has recently submitted a proposal under which it would acquire in a land swap the existing City Hall site on the Square, and the new City Hall would be constructed on the present vacant HG Hill location on Columbia Avenue, outside the historic core of Franklin and a full half mile from the Square. I fully concur with the opposition to that proposal, and join with what I am sure would be the view of the majority of our residents — that the City Hall should remain at its present location. City Hall, both economically and symbolically, is the heart of our unique town and, without it in the historic 16block core of Franklin, we run the risk of losing some of the vitality needed for the continued financial success of our community.

 Aside from personal views, however, I would add a more institutional and studied note — that you and others examining this issue will find that the national organizations most involved in the success of our US towns and cities stress the importance of government offices being located in the downtown centers. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, of which I served as a Trustee for nine years, and as Vice-Chairman, has emphasized in its Main Street program and otherwise that the location of government offices in town centers provides continuing business activity and diversification, particularly valuable in the inevitable times of economic downturn. 

I believe that you will also find that the Urban Land Institute, a critical trade association of the real estate industry and of which Mr Granberry, CEO of HG Hill, served as Nashville chapter president in 2016, takes the same stance.

My objection to this proposal goes further, however, than opposition to moving City Hall from the Square. My second concern relates to the importance of adhering to established plans and procedures in City administration. I was not totally surprised by the HG Hill proposal. Franklin’s recent economic success has, of course, attracted the attention of real estate developers typically not previously involved here.  

Franklin is being inundated with development proposals, some attractive and imaginative, but often, perhaps always, based on exceptions to Envision Franklin, existing City plans or what previous City leaders had already decided. The net effect is sometimes protracted disagreements and battles about development, preservation and the degree to which we can rely on what had previously been decided. Such is the risk here. Planning for City Hall has been going on for two and one half years, and a change of course would almost certainly lead to escalated costs in an inflationary period. 

I had thought that the location of City Hall had been settled, and any change now would be deleterious in many respects. I am, of course, not suggesting that flexibility and adaptability are un-important; Franklin should always be ready to take advantage of unusual opportunities as they arise. In general, however, residents, planners and developers need assurance about the rules of the game.

 On both these grounds, I oppose any change to the plans for the City Hall’s location. I understand, however, that members of BOMA wish to conduct due diligence on the HG Hill proposal, with legal and financial questions already having been raised. In such case, if the City is planning to consider such a swap, it seems clear that there are other alternatives to the HG Hill site — better located, less expensive and with Franklin-based developers with a demonstrated record in the downtown. 

We thus propose another swap for the City’s consideration, that of our Church Street Associates site for the City Hall site. As you may know, Church Street owns the 2.4-acre site located between Fourth and Fifth avenues and along Church Street, formerly housing the administrative offices of the First United Methodist Church of Franklin. In summary, we believe that our site would be superior to any other location for the City Hall, except, as we have advocated, the existing City Hall site. Among our attributes;

Our site is located in the historic core of the City, on one of the original 16 blocks of 1799.

 Our site contains approximately 65,000 square feet of office space, now housing Generations Church ( and the Classical School), as well as various offices. The main building of 40,000 square feet was built in 1997, is fully sprinkled, and otherwise meets City codes. A separate building of 24,000 square feet was redeveloped in 2016.

 Our site contains a large auditorium, which can accommodate up to 300 people. The hallways of the main building are wide and the existing rooms are spacious, all convertible to a variety of uses.

Our site has extensive on-site parking, containing approximately 100 spaces.

If the City so wishes and is pursuing due diligence on swap proposals, we would be pleased to provide additional information, including expiration times of existing leases, and details of construction.


Sincerely yours,

J. Roderick Heller III

Franklin, TN

(1) comment


This Washington DC lawyer seems to think he is dealing with a gaggle of rubes in Franklins mayor, Aldermen and Planning Commission. Considering the way he and his cronies bent the historic district guidelines to build that monstrosity of a hotel, he may be right. Noted that his letter opens with addressing the mayor by his first name "Dear Ken" yet closes with "J Roderick Heller III" hmmm

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