Architecture firm will take over historic home at former church campus

From, published on December 23, 2015

Home Page staff reports

A boutique architecture firm has selected the Kenneday House at Historic Fifth Square in downtown Franklin as its new home.

906 Studio Architects, a boutique architecture firm known for historic preservation and sensitive infill projects, has selected the 1835 Kenneday House at Historic Fifth Square in downtown Franklin as its new home.

“We could have easily gone somewhere else and saved some money, but it’s important to us to be in the downtown core. This is who we are as a company – we are committed to timeless architecture,” said architect Mike Hathaway, who chairs the City of Franklin’s Planning Commission and is also a member of the City’s Historic Zoning Commission and a resident of Franklin’s National Register-listed Hincheyville Historic District. “Good design creates a sense of place, and preservation makes great sense from an economic and sustainability standpoint.”

Among 906 Studio’s notable projects currently in progress are the Harpeth Square hotel and multi-use development planned for Main Street in downtown Franklin; Southall Farm on Carter’s Creek Pike; Spring Hill’s Town Square; Roderick’s Place in Thompson’s Station; and a number of single-family restorations and infill projects.

The team of five plans to move in to the 3,500 square-foot Kenneday House in January, now that the Franklin First United Methodist Church has relocated to its new campus on the corner of Franklin Road and Mack Hatcher Memorial Parkway. This is the second major tenant for the newly branded Historic Fifth Square, which recently announced that Generations Church and Learning Center are now occupying more than 30,000 square feet in the former sanctuary building next door to the Kenneday House on Fifth Avenue.

Steve Bacon of Historic 5th Square, LLC, said the new use for the Methodist Church property has attracted significant interest since its announcement.

“We love the diversity – a church, an educational component, and now professional services with the addition of a preeminent architecture firm with deep roots in downtown Franklin and a focus on preservation,” Bacon said. “On the other side, with the former Fellowship Hall building, there’s potential for a great restaurant and even retail. It’s all part of what makes a downtown community great.”

For more information, visit To learn more about 906 Studio Architects, visit

Emily West covers Franklin for Home Page Media Group. Contact her at Follow her on Twitter via @emwest22.

Harpeth Square Development estimated as Franklin’s biggest construction project

from on December 1, 2014

The Harpeth Square Development, an estimated $80 to $85 million project if approved, was the subject of a special meeting with the City of Franklin’s Design Review Committee on Monday night in City Hall.

The Harpeth Square Development, an estimated $80 to $85 million project if approved, was the subject of a special meeting with the City of Franklin’s Design Review Committee on Monday night in City Hall.

If the project is approved it will be the biggest construction undertaking in the city’s history, spanning four separate city blocks and including a hotel, residential and retail complex.

One of the principle investors of the project, Rod Heller, spoke to the committee about the financial challenges that the project will face. However, Heller, who is a Franklin native, was optimistic about what the complex will bring to Franklin.

He informed the committee that the investors are planning to keep ownership of the complex and pass it down to their children and grandchildren.

Heller said he is determined to ensure the project “stands the test of time,” and will be built entirely of concrete. However, the financial burdens imposed by the city codes, actualized in road impact fees, parkland dedication fees, and parking requirements, will mean the investors will have to pony up millions of dollars before the project begins.

“Before we even begin working out a revenue generating structure, we have $12,000,000 in costs that will need to be absorbed,” Heller said.

The Landmark Community Bank building on Main Street also poses financial challenges. Heller said if he was an “independent actor” he would side with those who would like to see the building torn down. But, the bank has a five-year lease that expires in 2019, so the building will likely stand in its current location for the foreseeable future.

“It would be almost irresponsible to tear it down,” Heller said.

Although the property the bank sits on was purchased by Heller and his investor group, finding a suitable location for the bank and expense of the lease would add cost to an already expensive project.

The planned complex will be 54 feet at its tallest location, reaching four stories in places. But, local developer Greg Gamble showed several other buildings in downtown Franklin’s historic 16 blocks with similar heights.

For example, the Masonic Lodge on 2nd Avenue reaches 56 feet to the top of the building, and the Landmark Books building cupola reaches 60 feet.

Gamble said the features the complex will be composed of 19,000 square feet of retail space, a 115-room hotel, 151 rooms of apartments ranging from 900 to 1,200 sq. ft. in size and a major restaurant location.

Mike Hathaway, the architect for the project, led the DRC along with Gamble on a digital tour of the planned site so DRC members could imagine what the structure would look like if they were driving in a car in downtown Franklin.

“If you come around Bridge Street, you start to see the multi-family units, which have a Browne Stone look,” Hathaway said. “Come around 2nd Avenue and you can see the hotel.”

Multiple views of the structure were provided so DRC members could not only get a sense for how the structure will blend in with the surrounding buildings, but also the design elements Hathaway created.

His idea was to give the structure the feeling that it isn’t just one giant concrete slab, but rather multiple structures that are separate and have unique architectural features.

On Main Street, Hathaway’s plans call for a “jewel box building,” which will be directly adjacent to and a modern glass replica of the Landmark Books building.

Behind these two structures will be the entryway into the hotel, as well as an alley composed of retail shops and public places.

The planned four story parking garage, which will have an estimated 550 spaces, was brought up in previous meetings when Hathaway and Gamble said the garage will not be free, although there will be dedicated spaces for hotel guests and apartment residents.

Gamble said there are plans to eventually envelop the City Farmhouse building on Bridge Street into the project, though the group has not yet been able to successfully acquire the property.

“We’ll set the tone with Harpeth Square as to what can be developed there in the future,” Gamble said.

Some DRC members, like Susan Besser, had some concerns of the project.

“I am struggling with the height,” Besser said. “I do not think I could support four stories.”

Ward 1 Alderman Margaret Martin disagreed, saying, “this is the biggest thing we’ve ever done – ever.”

Martin was also exciting by the fact that the developers of the project are Franklin natives.

“I’m very excited about it,” she said. “I’m sick of people coming from San Antonio and building something. We have to clean up their mess.”

Heritage Foundation CEO Mary Pearce said the project reminded her of the financial improvement to Charleston, South Carolina.

“The current mayor of Charleston said that the financials did not stabilize until the hotels came,” she said. “The principle of getting people to stay in your urban core is something we get asked for every day. All of our vacation rentals by owner’s are exploding.”

Senate Hospitality of Brentwood has been hired to preside over the planned 115-room hotel. They will be in charge of marketing the hotel, as well as hiring the 70-80 full and part-time employees.

Monday night’s meeting is just the beginning of a long journey for the Harpeth Square project, whose fate will ultimately be decided by the Board of Mayor and Alderman, most likely in 2015.

Michael Ackley covers the City of Franklin for Homepage Media Group. Contact him at

Prominent Franklin Project Grows Again

From The Nashville Business Journal - December 3, 2015
By Adam Schisko

A development poised to be the biggest project downtown Franklin has seen in many years has just grown again, which will postpone the start of construction.

The proposed $86 million Harpeth Square development must come back before city officials for their review starting later this month, after the developers paid $950,000 for yet another piece of the city block bordered by Main and Bridge streets and First and Second avenues north. It is the final piece they plan to acquire within what is one of the original 16 blocks of the historic downtown in Franklin (a block that's mostly idle today).

The city is the county seat of Williamson County, whose population is growing at a faster clip than any of the other 94 counties in Tennessee. The proposed Harpeth Square is one of a few projects signaling heightened investor interest in Franklin, whose Cool Springs commercial hub on the other side of Interstate 65 has long received much more of that attention. 

The developers now plan 155 luxury apartments, 14 more than before. The project would combine those units with other elements including retail space and a 115-room, four-star hotel — a hotel that will no longer be developed by Nashville-based Senate Hospitality Group. Overall, it's something of a scale and scope that caused much tension throughout the city's original vetting, before the city approved it in May.

Rod Heller and Jay Franks, both Franklin residents, are the co-principals of developer Harpeth Associates LLC. They've raised $7 million of equity toward the project, which is $1 million more than the tally as of May. Among the newest investors are Sharon Haynes and Dianne Sturdivant, who sold the developers their property at 111 Bridge St. last month.

Steve Bacon, the developer's chief operating officer and executive vice president, said that's enough equity to secure a construction loan for all but the hotel, which he said will be financed separately. Bacon said his group is in early talks for financing from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The mix of apartments is changing, too. Bacon said the project now includes more two- and three-bedroom units (75 and 14, respectively). The target demographic remains current Franklin residents who no longer need quite as much living space, and who no longer want the effort and expense of maintaining their single-family homes and yards.

"We think we have very healthy demand from Baby Boomers and older," Bacon said. "I think we'll get a millennial crowd, but that 'renter by choice' group will be particularly attracted to it."

The expanded version of the project will go before the city's planning commission later this month. The city's Board of Mayor & Aldermen could review and vote on the matter over the course of January and February — a timeline that has Bacon eyeing a June 2016 start for construction. If work started then, the development could open in late 2017 or early 2018.

The project includes a 600-space parking garage that will offer paid parking for the public.

Bacon said his group is in negotiations with a four-star hotel, and in separate talks with a new hotel developer. He declined to elaborate. "We amicably parted ways with Senate Hospitality. We hope to work with them on other things," Bacon said.

Bacon expects the hotel to cost $32 million to develop, close to 40 percent of the project's overall price tag.

In a separate project, Heller and Franks — the co-owners of Harpeth Associates — are part of the group under contract to pay $5 million for the former home of Franklin United Methodist Church. At that site, which is several blocks from the Harpeth Square project, the group is aiming for a mixed-use development as well.