Stormy skies didn’t deter large crowd at Harpeth Square groundbreaking ceremony


Stormy skies didn’t deter large crowd at Harpeth Square groundbreaking ceremony

By BROOKE WANSER

Gray skies and looming storm clouds didn’t put a damper on the Harpeth Square ceremonial groundbreaking festivities Monday morning.

Dozens of people congregated on a partially closed Second Avenue west of Main Street, to hear project developer J. Roderick Heller talk about the high-end hotel and apartment project that has taken years to come to fruition.

Roderick Heller opens the Harpeth Square groundbreaking ceremony/ Photo by Brooke Wanser

Though project movement has been slow with much consideration from public leaders, Heller didn’t dwell on delays. “We’ve always felt we had the wind at our back because we’ve had such great support from the citizens of Franklin,” he said.

“We have a lot of very strict design guidelines, so this didn’t happen overnight,” acknowledged Mayor Ken Moore. “It took three years to get to this point where we’re doing the groundbreaking.”

Moore noted that about 40 public meetings had preceded the project’s approval. “This is probably one of the most complex projects our city has seen,” he said.

“We have one of the most famous Main Streets in America. We get a lot of recognition for it, but it’s a very short Main Street,” he continued. “Now we’re seeing projects come east of our square, so we’re going to have a lot more opportunity for people to be able to visit Franklin and a lot more opportunity for our residents to enjoy Franklin.”

In a nearly hour-long ceremony, Heller thanked city leaders, project managers, advisors and financiers, the latter of whom Heller said raised $34 million in equity for the project.

“Our objective has been straightforward and consistent,” said Heller. “It is to build the best complex in Middle Tennessee, indeed, the state of Tennessee, of which we were capable.”

Heller went on to outline the project’s 597-space parking garage, 150 LEED Gold-certified apartment unit and a 119- room Hilton Curio brand hotel.

“We’ve geared these apartments to what we believe to be the Franklin audience,” Heller said, “These are very high-end.” Heller noted that room service, valet and maid service would be available to apartment residents from the hotel.

A large tent with renderings and information about the project, along with coffee and snacks, provided respite from the chilly day// Photo by Brooke Wanser

Heller, himself an author of historic novels, spoke about the Battle of Franklin and the residue it left on the town. “One of the things we’re going to do is put up historical markers consistent with those in the rest of the town which reflect the importance of this area,” he said.

Tennessee Speaker of the House of Representative Beth Harwell was one of several local politicians to appear at the event, along with Senator Jack Johnson, Rep. Sam Whitson, Rep. Jim Cooper, Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson.

Roderick Heller, Beth Harwell, Mayor Ken Moore, Marsha Blackburn, Rev. William Russell McCown/ Photo by Brooke Wanser

“Everyone loves Franklin, Tennessee. Most of the state’s a little jealous of y’all,” Harwell said. “We wish we could live here, but at least you’ve made it possible for us to visit on a regular basis.”

Congressional 7th district Rep. Marsha Blackburn took the stage to talk about Williamson County’s expansion and to thank county and city and private leaders for working together on the project.

“Team is an acronym,” she said. “Together everyone achieves more.”

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