At event, ideas shared for Franklin’s future

Last modified: 4/13/2015 12:03:28 AM
It’s a question that’s been posed countless times: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Christopher Kennedy, principal at UK Architects and member of Plan New Hampshire, did not try to answer the question, but reframed it in the context of a city’s revitalization. Which comes first, Kennedy asked, the businesses or the people?

“Whatever the bodies are, the chicken or the egg, we need to get those in there,” he said in Franklin yesterday afternoon.

Generating ideas to bring more people and businesses to Franklin was just one aspect of the community design charrette yesterday that was the culminating piece of “Franklin for a Lifetime,” a three-day event that involved Kennedy, city officials, community members, and national and local organizers.

Beginning Thursday night at city hall, the event drew more than 100 people for a community dinner and talk from Jennifer Wallace-Brodeaur of AARP.

Creating a community for all ages was the theme for the workshop, which aimed to “highlight challenges and opportunities related to aging in community and address housing, economic development, planning and community design idea for a vibrant Franklin.”

That group returned to city hall for a full day of talks, brainstorming and planning on Friday, after which members of Plan NH incorporated the ideas, challenges and suggestions during a charrette.

Presented to the community yesterday afternoon at the Bessie Rowell Community Center, the plan from the charrette drew mostly positive reactions from the many involved in the process that led to its development.

The charrette and much of the workshop focused on Franklin’s downtown, the half-mile stretch of Central Street between the two bridges.

This was not the first charrette for the city, but it is different, Mayor Ken Merrifield said. In the past, charrettes focused on traffic patterns and were expensive undertakings for Franklin.

“It has much more of an affordability flair to it,” he said, adding that the goals in this one are more attainable.

Franklin has another advantage in revitalization and planning that many other communities do not, Plan NH Executive Director Robin LeBlanc said. “The people of Franklin are committed to change and creating a more livable city,” she said.

The plan, created in the span of half the day yesterday, established a starting point of suggestions for the city, including building a bandshell at Marceau Park and creating a skating rink there in the winter and pop-up parks along Central Street.

“Now it’s your turn to sift through it and find those nuggets you’re going to run with,” Kennedy said.

“Franklin for a Lifetime” was organized by a steering committee, the UNH Cooperative Extension, community members and city officials, and was awarded a grant through the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design program. The partners of CIRD are Community Matters, the National Endowment for the Arts, USDA Rural Development, Project for Public Spaces and the Orton Family Foundation.

The three-day workshop was just the start for Franklin; another presentation with the suggestions, ideas and plans will be made to the community May 26.

“Franklin has the bones to be a great place,” said Lauren Masseria, project associate with the Project for Public Spaces, a nonprofit that works with CIRD. “People care. . . . When people are that excited, something has to change.”

(Susan Doucet can be reached at 369-3309, or on Twitter 

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