Brownstones, boutique hotel suggested for historic First Methodist property

Mary M. Reeves, The Murfreesboro Post, July 28, 2017

Two developers interested in the block containing Franklin Synergy Bank property on East College presented their proposals to the Murfreesboro City Council in a special meeting Thursday night.  Both proposals included mixed use – combining residential with office and retail space – factors the council recommended when the city bought the lot in 2016.

Another factor that was crucial, said Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland, was the preservation of the old Methodist church tower that sits on the lot, and, if possible, the preservation of the sanctuary as well.

“It was unanimous that the most important thing was to save the church tower,” McFarland said.

A request for proposals was submitted earlier this year, but only one proposal was received, said Rob Lyons, Murfreesboro’s city manager.

“We re-opened it and got two more.”

Lyons told the council that other developers have expressed an interest but have yet to submit a proposal. One inquiry was just for the sanctuary and church tower alone, not the entire lot, approximately 2 acres of an entire city block.

“We now have some pretty significant interest in the property,” said McFarland.  “Hopefully by the end of September or October, we’ll be able to make a decision on what direction we’re going to go.”

McFarland said no decisions would be made at the Thursday night meeting and that the opportunity to submit a proposal would be extended until the end of August.

The proposal brought forward by Midas Management included:

  • A ground floor including retail sales stores such as a a bistro bar, a healthy snack store, cafeteria, bank, restaurant, dry cleaning, printing, FedEx, etc.
  • The first floor would contain office spaces that would include businesses such as law firms, title companies, brokers and real estate agencies.
  • The next 6-8 floors would include a 150-room “boutique” hotel, with “element by Marriott with an elegant modernistic interior design concept.”
  • The plan would also incorporate modern student condominiums, a banquet hall, a fitness center with an added bonus of a rooftop swimming pool, and a bar and lounge area.

The company stated plans to work with the city on developing parking, proposing a parking structure that would serve the public as well.

Councilman Eddie Smotherman expressed concern about the height of the proposed buildings.

“A 8 or 9 story building is going to look really out of place,” he said.

The second proposal was from City Development Company.  Developer Bill Barkley told the council his proposed structure would be no more than 5 stories, equaling the height of the old church tower.  His plan also includes mixed use, offering such features as:

  • Underground parking
  • Restoration of the old church and bell tower as a venue for private and public events, “a featured centerpiece for the development.”
  • Retail, restaurants, a rooftop bar, pedestrian walkways and courtyards would break up the spaces between up to five different buildings
  • The residential development will contain brownstones and townhouses, as well as apartments above the ground floor.

Barkley was the first to present a proposal to the council back in the spring, and resubmitted with changes made after listening the council’s wishes for the property, he said.

McFarland said these were preliminary proposal hearings and that all of the developers who presented proposals would be granted interviews with the council to present more detailed plans and answer more questions, before any decision was made.

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