Mayor wants more state support for Greenfield
GREENFIELD — Mayor William Martin says he wants the state to offer the city some mitigation funds” to compensate for its decision to relocate courthouse functions away from the downtown during its multiyear reconstruction.
“I’m happy it’s still in town, but there are obstacles that need to be overcome” as a result of lost business and traffic through the downtown. “For Greenfield’s downtown, it’s unfortunate. The reality is that we need to adapt to it.”
Martin said that with “some inkling” that the decision for the temporary court space being planned for the Greenfield Corporate Center on Munson Street, about two miles from the existing courthouse, he’s talked with state officials for help to offset the “new obstacle for the continued rejuvenation of the downtown.”
While there’s no dollar figure that he’s seeking, Martin says that the “ripple effect” of $75 million worth of construction economic stimulation downtown — a new transportation center, a revamped courthouse, and passenger rail heading back to the town — leaves Greenfield trying to accommodate.
Martin rejected the state’s estimate of 30 months for the courthouse project, saying that state projects are rarely completed on schedule, so the harm on downtown business will likely persist.
“The idea that the community is expected to fund a parking garage 100 percent by itself because of the influx of $75 million in stimulus and state funds, is not something I agree with,” he said.
Apart from the proposed parking garage — a $9 million project the state rejected as too costly last year — Martin said he would be interested in having the state help with redevelopment of the former Carr Hardware building it rejected for a temporary courthouse space.
That facility, which Department of Capital Planning and Construction Commissioner Carole Cornelison said would have cost an additional $8.9 million over three years to renovate and lease, is owned by Dyer Investment Co. of Dyersburg, Tenn.
“There are avenues for improving 60,000 square feet of space on Main Street,” Martin said, calling for the state to assign that property “a high-priority number” for rehabilitation programs that could include a feasibility study as well as development.
The Greenfield Juvenile Court and Greenfield Housing Court now anchor an adjacent part of that former hardware store, and Martin said he’s thankful that they will remain there temporarily. But with the current Greenfield Juvenile Court slated to move into the new $60 million courthouse when it’s finally completed, he said, “What we’ve got is a seesaw: Everybody is moving out of (the courthouse) on Hope Street to the corporate center, and then the other end of Main Street will be abandoned when it moves back into the courthouse.”
Martin said the Main Street space could be a valuable commercial center, and he said the community — along with developers and property owners — share some of the blame for failing to prepare the kind of large-scale downtown office complex that could have kept scores of workers from the state Department of Employment and Training and the Department of Children and Families from being moved to Munson Street along with courthouse workers.
Martin said the town needs to get involved on “a more aggressive basis” to see that 30,000 to 60,000 square feet of office space is developed downtown.
But he added, “We need some help. The taxpayers shouldn’t be responsible for responding to $75 million in state money that’s being invested in the community.
“Since we’re the center of Franklin County, we’re the reservoir for federal, state, local and county offices,” Martin said. “We’ve got the courthouse, the jail, the post office — all the big stuff the whole county uses. And when they make decisions outside of our control, it causes a ripple effect for our community. All I’m asking for is some attention and special mitigation for the decisions they make. We’re looking for a shepherd to take us through the maze of opportunities at the state level.”
Robert Pyers, the town’s economic development director, said this summer that if the courthouse is moved out of the downtown area, the town and the building owner will still have to do something with the former Carr property, which is in poor shape.
He estimated that downtown businesses would lose about $2 million in business each year, because most people using a courthouse on Munson Street won’t come downtown for a half-hour or hour-long lunch.
“The downtown can’t withstand that,” he said. “And the town is going to lose parking revenue on top of it all.”
You can reach Richie Davis at:
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