Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

After nearly 50 years, the original Franklin Chamber of Commerce building was leveled last week to make way for one of four roundabouts that will be constructed along U.S. 441 Business over the next two years. 

The Franklin Chamber of Commerce moved in June 2017 to a newly renovated facility along 441N, and while traffic and gift shop sales have increased with the move, Chamber staff said that it’s still a sad day to see the building no longer standing. 

“It was bitter sweet,” said Cindy Cavendar with the Franklin Chamber of Commerce. “Between the three of us, Linda Harbuck spent 44 years, Diane Baldwin spent 27 years and I spent 10 years in that building. In those combined 81 years, we met thousands of visitors and befriended many locals who were either employed or volunteered their time. The building that we built in 1969 has certainly served our community well. We love our new facility and invite everyone to come visit us.”

Members of the chamber were able to come away with a memory of the original building. They were able to collect bricks from the original building, which will be presented to the Franklin Chamber of Board of Directors who were instrumental in the sale of the original building and the purchase of the new, current facility. 

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has purchased the Franklin Chamber of Commerce property for the purpose of constructing the roundabout. The NCDOT also paid Macon County $313,750 for the right-of-way easement to make room for a roundabout, and with that right-of-way agreement, the DOT agreed to deed the chamber property back to Macon County after the roundabout is constructed. With no access to the property from the road, Commissioner Ronnie Beale asked for the property in the deal to be able to expand parking for the senior service center. 

The roundabout at the intersection where the original chamber is located is one of four scheduled to be constructed over the next two years. According to David Uchiyama, communications officer with the NCDOT, bidding for the four roundabouts will begin on June 12 and the estimated total cost is $4.3 million. Roundabouts will be constructed at Womack Street, Maple Street, Porter Street, and on Wayah Street/Depot Street intersection. All four roundabouts will be awarded to the same company and part of the contract will be for the project to be completed within two years. 

According to Uchiyama, studies have shown that roundabouts are safer than traditional stop signs or signal-controlled intersections. Roundabouts reduce injury crashes by 75 percent at intersections where stop signs or signals were previously used for traffic control, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). At a typical intersection, there are 32 different ways an accident can occur. Roundabouts cut the possible collisions in half and significantly reduce the likelihood of a T-bone accident or head on collision, which are the most deadly types of accidents.