FRANKLIN - A nearly $5 million factory-to-conference center proposal is building on a small central Indiana city's long-term efforts to breathe more life into its downtown. Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness says redevelopment plans for the former Varynit Garment Factory are a year-and-a-half in the making and build on a "huge year" for the Johnson County city. The project is a public-private partnership among the city, Greenwood-based Bemis Group and Oaken Barrel Brewing Co. and involves retail and event space, parking and condominiums.

More than one-quarter of the estimated total price of the project could come from the city.

McGuinness says "the Garment Factory has been on our radar for redevelopment for a few years. When this opportunity presented itself, I knew we must act on it. The Young's Creek Neighborhood project is one of the most exciting projects I have had the honor of working on for the City. This will have a profound impact on the community and further solidify our strong efforts to revitalize our downtown."

He tells Inside INdiana Business the city has invested more than $25 million in downtown revitalization efforts since he took office four years ago, including infrastructure projects, facade program and small business loans. McGuinness says the Young's Creek redevelopment on the southern portion of the city center will focus on an area that hasn't gotten the same level of attention as other in the past. "I think this will really get a nice shot in the arm." He says activity at the garment factory peaked around the second World War, but the space has been vacant for around 30 year.

McGuinness said there were 21 ribbon-cuttings for businesses in 2015. Other big projects that will get underway this year include a $30 million project involving a new gateway and a 42-month effort to continue redeveloping a former stretch of State Road 44 running through the city.