PHOTO: Franklin’s Downtown Neighborhood Association President Lynne McAlister shows the organization’s new logo inside the Frothy Monkey on Friday, September28, 2018./Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
When Lynne McAlister moved back to Franklin after 15 years of living in London, she came “kicking and screaming,” with memories of her walkable British neighborhood in mind.
“The walking community is so important,” she said. “It’s your best choice there.”
Her dreams of living among the 15 blocks of downtown Franklin materialized when a woman whose home she had fallen in love with decided to move.
Since 2014, the McAlisters have lived on Fair Street, becoming involved in the Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA) through real estate agent Dianne Christian.
Now, McAlister has taken over as president of the unofficial organization, collecting membership dues, redesigning the logo and website, and organizing resident input on pressing community concerns.
At the top of that list is parking.
With the recent switch from free four hour to two hour parking along the downtown core and the increase in visitors, residents say they see people parking in front of stop signs and fire hydrants.
“I can imagine that it’s only going to get worse,” McAlister said.
“An HOA for downtown”
“The primary, initial mission was just for people to know their neighbors,” McAlister agreed. “However, it has morphed over the years to having a voice in preservation,” and, more recently, parking.
It’s a way for neighbors to have a consolidated voice in city affairs that affect them, especially with the shifts in parking.
New board member Walter Green, a retired engineer, has been surveying residents to gather feedback on their challenges and calling other small towns with parking troubles from tourism.
City of Franklin Long-Range Planner Kelly Dannenfelser is also on the board of the DNA, providing valuable insight into neighborhood issues.
Near the Brownstones, between 1st and 2nd Avenue South, parking problems are usually alleviated by the nearby parking garage.
But in other parts of the neighborhood, evenings can be a problem when those without a garage come home to find a packed street.
McAlister said the DNA plans to present their concerns to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen next year, with some potential solutions.
“Ultimately, it’s probably going to require building a structure of some kind, at some point,” she said. “You hope by having as much public engagement as possible, you get to an easier answer.”
Know thy neighbor
From her understanding, the organization had its origins on the porch of Bob and Margaret Martin’s home on 3rd Avenue South.
“All the neighborhoods around had HOAs, but downtown doesn’t have that,” said Martin, a longtime alderman and former schoolteacher. “We didn’t even know our neighbors.”
Around 1995, the Martins hosted a covered dish dinner for the few neighbors they did know, Ernie Bacon and Dan Klatt.
That evolved into a community group that got together for ice cream socials each July, shrimp boils in the fall, and a holiday party in December.
Ernie Bacon was picked as the organization’s founding president, serving in various capacities throughout the years, as has Rep. Sam Whitson, who moved to the downtown community in 2000.
Even today, it’s an informal organization. “The only money that we have, we charge to go to the shrimp boil and the membership fees,” McAlister said, the latter of which costs $20 annually.
Currently, McAlister said there are only 59 households in the organization, out of a potential 300.
With a new website, McAlister hopes to create better access to neighbors and an easier way to pay dues. “There’s a lot of ways people should be able to voice their concerns, and hopefully, victories,” she added.
The main mission will remain the same. “I think it’s dangerous not to know your neighbors,” Martin said.