In this year’s new town budget, $50,000 was set aside to make improvements to the iconic structure that serves as a downtown gathering spot. Although the gazebo is a workhorse of an event center — shading bluegrass bands, providing a pulpit for speakers at rallies or a loitering spot for visitors at street festivals — it has its downsides.
The gazebo was built on top of an old fountain with little thought toward just how important it would ultimately be in the downtown Franklin scene. Poor structural shape, lack of paint, a deteriorating roof, a cramped floor plan, no storage space and bad sound quality are all on Town Manager Warren Cabe’s list of the gazebo’s short falls.
He hopes an overhaul, or even a brand new gazebo-like structure, can remedy those problems and give the downtown a facelift.
“We’re proud of downtown and the work that has been done downtown, and we feel like that facility needs to represent Franklin well,” Cabe said. The one thing the gazebo has going for it is location. “It’s a good focal point for public gatherings.”
The plan is to have any sort of improvements done between the town’s two big remaining festivals of the year. Ideally, work would start after the Heritage Festival this weekend and be completed before the October Pumpkin Fest. However, Cabe said there are factors at play that could make the timeline difficult: a new design still needs to be selected by the town staff, elected officials and residents who regularly use the structure, and then construction or refurbishing work would have to be punctual.
“We would like to have it done before this winter,” Cabe said “And we would love to have it done before October.”
There are also budgetary considerations. If the gazebo is scrapped for a brand-new shelter that may pose some delays and possibly sap the financial resources the town has set aside. Furthermore, Macon County is technically the owner of the land the gazebo sits on and leases it to the town for a nominal price each year. That lease agreement is set to expire soon and Cabe wants to ensure the property is locked down before investing money it.
Alderman Sissy Pattillo, who is running for mayor this fall, said plans for the gazebo remain in their infancy,beyond allocating money in the town’s budget.
Linda Schlott, the town’s Main Street Coordinator, has already been busy working with the so-called gazebo committee, comprised mostly of event organizers who make use of the structure and are most familiar with its shortcomings. But they are still in the brainstorming stages and have not pinned down the exact fit to improve the gazebo.
“It’s a well used area and we want to get the best use out of what we have,” Schlott said. “We just have been brainstorming on what would be the best use.”
Schlott said whatever the solution, it may need to be a dramatic change to keep pace with the growth of the downtown district and all the events.
“It’s a pretty gazebo, and I love the gazebo, but when you’re trying to do an event there it’s not ideal,” Schlott said.