Despite demolition, plans still not concrete for Franklin's H.G. Hill shopping center

Posted at 1:33 PM, Nov 09, 2021

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — Now in crumbled pieces, demolition crews continued working on taking apart the H.G. Hill building in downtown Franklin.

H.G. Realty Company officials said there's no concrete plan of what will happen next, but the City of Franklin already considered this end of town might change.

Back in 2016, city staff reviewed the Columbia Avenue Overlay plan, which is the street where the building sits. At the time, the city wanted to ensure developers could redo the project efficiently, but that it also matched the character of the area. The property is between the Franklin Police Department and the Carter House, which encompasses Battle of Franklin terrain.

Emily Wright, the director of city planning, says the zoning on the site is designated as central commercial. While developers are free to come up with their own plans, Wright encourages them to mind the area's historical context.

"Scale of the buildings. The architecture. The form. How they're set back from the street. All those things really play together to make sure they're compatible with what's around it. This site has some very special requirements," Wright said.

Throughout the years, tenants have slowly left the building when their leases ended. The most recent was Our Thrift Store, which is now closed. AutoZone built a stand-alone building across the street. Late in 2015, the Piggly Wiggly Grocery store — which occupied much of the space — closed. A Japanese place also occupied space inside the center.

During the planning process five years ago, H.G. officials told the city they didn't agree with setback features, which the Franklin Municipal Planning Department dropped.

“We are pleased to take this initial step as we determine the best and right path forward for this important property,” said Jimmy Granbery, chair and CEO, H.G. Hill Realty Company. “We look forward to working with city officials, the historic preservation community and our Franklin neighbors as we explore development plans.”

Wright says they're patiently waiting on a proposal, but also offered their own suggestions. The Envision Franklin Plan gathered feedback from the public where they determined the best fit could be a mix of both residential and commercial space. Imagine stores on the bottom and homes on top or some combination of both on property.

Proposals that fit within current zoning can be approved within 60 to 90 days. Ideas outside these guidelines would have to be approved by the board of mayor and alderman.

Granbery most recently finished up Hill Center in Brentwood, which went through multiple phases. The campus — on the corner of Franklin Road and Maryland Way — hosts multiple businesses, eateries and shops. The last phase included AC Hotel Brentwood, SVMIC and several office and retail tenants. Since the project's start, H.G. Hill Realty Company added to the property’s footprint with a $220 million mixed-use development spanning 17-acres.