facelifts aren't just for hollywood glitterati!
The Village Plaza on Franklin’s Main Street underwent a makeover even Phyllis Diller could envy. Freshly splashed in sage green and chimney red, the “strip mall” in the heart of the Franklin Historic District is a welcome upgrade to business owners. You don’t have to be homely to get pretty, points out Judy Shagena, co-owner of Franklin Village Boutique, one of five businesses that comprise the Franklin Village Plaza. “It’s not that the storefront was bad, but the white looked old, “ said Ms. Shagena. “The (red) brick is refreshing. I am very pleased.”
A commercial building’s rehab wouldn’t normally make news but in this case, a creative program offered by Main Street Franklin (MSF) awarded a $1000 “façade renovation” grant and free architectural design services to the property owner. MSF Executive Director Vivian Carmody approached Village Plaza’s new owner and suggested the facelift. Preservation architect, Ron Campbell from Main Street Oakland County, worked with the property owner on the design services, while Main Street Franklin’s new façade grant program helped offset the cost of façade improvements to the tune of $1000. No public funds were used for the improvements.
The National Main Street Program is the brainchild of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The program was founded more than thirty years ago to revitalize historic downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts that have been challenged by malls, and, more recently, the World Wide Web. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation website, this year’s five “Great American Main Street Award” winners – the top five local programs in the country – created nearly four hundred businesses and more than fourteen hundred jobs while rehabbing over six hundred buildings and generating an impressive average of $7,890,716.18 in public investment and $25,852,599.70 in private investment.
Main Street Franklin is only two years old but its supporters maintain that Franklin’s little business district can yield proportional revitalization statistics while maintaining the historic integrity and charm of its one of a kind Village Center. The Village Plaza’s facelift is only a start to Main Street Franklin’s mission.
The seventy five year old Village Plaza, also known to locals as the “Jones building,” was built as a filling and service station, and, later served as Franklin’s post office until 1960 when it was turned into the retail center it is today. The current owner, who closed on the property earlier this year, said Main Street Franklin made it uncomplicated and effortless to upgrade the tired exterior. “Ron (Campbell) is a fine architect who made it easy.” Would she have done the makeover without MSF’s help? Absolutely not, she said.
Main Street Franklin has not been twiddling its thumbs. The program facilitated Farmhouse Coffee & Ice Cream’s renovations and opening last year and, more recently recruited, Savvy Chic, a home and lifestyle retailer to the Village Center. “To put together a façade grant program and help recruit several new business in less than two years is unusual for a fledgling Main Street program,” said Ms. Carmody. “As the only Main Street program in Michigan not funded by a DDA, our early successes are a testament to our dedicated volunteers and community spirit. Franklin is loved by its residents, business, and property owners, and it’s their collective enthusiasm that has driven such early achievements.”
As for the newly enhanced Franklin Village Boutique in Village Plaza, “Business has been good,” said Ms. Shagena. “Main Street Franklin has great ideas and has been good to us. They can only help us.”