Franklin Savings Bank (FSB) donated $30,000 to PermaCityLife in Franklin, a nonprofit formed in 2014 to focus on redeveloping Franklin’s downtown. Franklin is working to turn itself around and combat a poor reputation due to below average schools, a lot of drug problems and periodic attention for arson to homes.
According to PermaCityLife, investment in Franklin’s downtown began to decline in the 1970s when the city's mills began to close. Todd Workman, executive director, says that while there's been longtime interest in redeveloping Franklin, there hasn't been a redevelopment authority until this point to initiate and oversee such a project.
Workman describes Franklin as "better positioned than other small NH towns" for this type of widescale redevelopment, citing Franklin's compact, walkable downtown and existing industrial park. PermaCityLife's final goal is to redevelop Franklin into a place for "living, working and recreating where all ages and income levels have their needs satisfied within the town," Workman says.
PermaCityLife's plans include specific downtown real estate projects, such as preserving Franklin’s historic storefronts and mill buildings and enhancing transportation and environmental sustainability. The last of these projects includes plans for a "largescale community garden" and protecting Franklin's drinking water supply. Workman describes the water supply as Franklin's "best asset 50 years from now."
As part of its downtown redevelopment plan, PermaCityLife is partnering with Franklin Industrial Park, the local government of Franklin, private investors and philanthropists for funding. The nonprofit is also working with Colby-Sawyer College in New London to develop a program that would allow students to live and learn in Franklin.
PermaCityLife acquired seven large block buildings and three of the mills, all located along the Main Street of Franklin. They are currently working with 12 small companies to bring their business to Franklin. The businesses include software, sporting goods and mushroom farming.
Workman says that PermaCityLife is working in phases, taking interim steps to acquire real estate, cover bills and patch up existing buildings. Part of this plan included partnering with Franklin Savings Bank to help fund the downtown development, which requires $1.3 million in financing.
“Within the last two years, we have seen progress in downtown Franklin with the revival of two buildings and a storefront – all within a few steps of our main office,” said Ron Magoon, president & COO of FSB.