Michelle Willard, Daily News Journal, December 30, 2015
MURFREESBORO — Franklin Synergy Bank is entertaining “several offers” for its downtown Murfreesboro property, including one from the city of Murfreesboro, an official with the bank said.
“We have several offers, and we think one of those will become a buyer, but nothing is signed,” Lee Moss, Franklin Synergy Bank Rutherford County president, said about the property that is home to the historic First United Methodist Church building, which dates back to 1888.
Moss confirmed the city of Murfreesboro is interested, but said saying more would be “premature.” The bank should have a final answer in about 30 days of who will be the next owner of the historic church.
Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland said the city has been in conversations with the bank for a few weeks about purchasing the property with the intention of guiding its development. The negotiations have progressed to the point where the City Council needs to get involved.
The city’s proposal will be on the Jan. 7 City Council agenda, McFarland said.
“Hopefully, we will be soliciting offers for mixed use and be able to drive what type of development that goes there,” McFarland said.
He added it is not his intention for the city to own the property for long, just to make certain it is developed consistently with Murfreesboro 2035 and the construction of the new judicial center.
The city already owns a portion of the block on the corner of Lytle and Spring streets, so buying the entire block seems like a natural fit, McFarland said.
“One of my goals is to save the church tower there, McFarland said. “The last thing we want to see is someone to buy that and tear down the tower.”
McFarland wants to guide the development with the help of a group of local preservationists and Main Street: Murfreesboro/Rutherford County that will evaluate the proposals, he said.
“Our goal is to have an incentive district to get people moving in to that district. This is a prime opportunity to build mixed use, retail and living space,” McFarland said.
Moss said the other interested parties are “other qualified developers” who intend to redevelop the site into commercial, retail and residential space. The development will include office space for Franklin Synergy.
Moss, who has lived in Murfreesboro for 20 years, said preserving the historic building “is important to us because we intend to be a tenant in the building. We would love to see the sanctuary preserved but as I’ve said before it needs a unique developer. But it is our hope that that is the end result.”
In May, Moss confirmed the bank is looking for a new owner for its historic building on the corner of Church and College streets in Murfreesboro. The bank placed the old First United Methodist Church building for sale with the intention of doing a lease-back contract with the eventual owner, Moss said at the time.
In the months since, Franklin Synergy has introduced plans to build a new office on Medical Center Parkway. In August, Moss said the bank wants a presence both in downtown Murfreesboro and on Medical Center Parkway.
First United Methodist Church, where Moss is a member of the congregation, moved about a decade ago to 20 donated acres on Thompson Lane near Siegel High School.
Contact Michelle Willard at 615-278-5164, on Twitter @MichWillard or facebook.com/DNJBusiness.