Heritage Foundation closes on $6 million purchase of O’More campus

Heritage Foundation CEP Bari Beasley and board president David Garrett sign the official documents to purchase the former O’More campus for $6 million.
By Kerri Bartlett

FROM: Williamson Herald

After raising $6 million in six months, representatives of the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County officially signed the documents Monday to close on the purchase of the 7-acre former O’More College of Design campus. 

The property is the largest preservation project in the organization’s 52-year history, according to Bari Beasley, executive director of the Heritage Foundation. 

On Monday, the foundation’s board of directors, advisory boards, staff and community partners gathered for the historic purchase and other key announcements. 

“Today marks a big milestone for the city of Franklin and the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County,” Beasley said.

“With the help of our generous donors and lending partner, FirstBank, we will be able to restore the historic integrity of the property, create a community asset and provide a place to experience preservation, arts and education.” 

The campus will serve as the site for preservation education as well as the Williamson, Inc. center for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Advisory Committee announced

Heritage Foundation Board President David Garrett also announced the formation of an advisory committee, which will oversee the transformation of the campus.

“To ensure the vision for this project is implemented in a timely manner and community input is appropriately included, the foundation has appointed a new campus advisory committee made up of Williamson County leaders,” Garrett said. “These leaders represent diverse perspectives but with the common thread of a love for this community.”

In addition to the advisory committee, the foundation is investing new and existing staff resources into the project. They are currently recruiting for a new project management role, director of campus planning and business development, to oversee the restoration project. 

The non-profit Heritage Foundation plans to restore and rehabilitate the 7-acre site into a multi-use campus with new educational offerings, publicly displayed collections, beautiful gardens, unique private event space and Williamson, Inc. will create the Idea Center, an innovation and entrepreneurship hub in the Victorian mansion on the property. 

Restoration of the campus 

The restoration plan includes securing architects and engineers to bring a glass conservatory to the campus to be used as a 300-seat community venue. A restaurant, or possible daytime tearoom, could also be introduced to the campus, as well as education classrooms and Heritage Foundation Department of Preservation offices.

More modern noncontributing structures will be demolished, Beasley explained, to restore the 1866 Abbey Leix Mansion and campus to its original historic integrity. The removal of the noncontributing structures will also make way for scenic gardens throughout the grounds.

The Williamson, Inc. Idea Center would operate from the circa 1887 Fleming-Farrar Hall on the campus.

The new advisory committee will also work on renaming the campus.

The estimated $20 million campus restoration will begin in 2019, and a capital campaign to raise the remaining funds will continue.

“Having an opportunity to work on a project of this magnitude, to make this campus everything Franklin could dream of, is an honor,” Beasley said. “We are motivated, excited and committed to making this the gold standard of Franklin.

“This will be a place you will never forget and a place locals will enjoy.”

The campus is located at 423 S. Margin Street in historic downtown Franklin.

Working alongside the new project manager and Beasley, current staff members  include Jill Burgin, executive director of the Main Street program; Wendy Dunavant, senior director of finance and administration; Meg Hershey, senior director of marketing and community engagement Miriam Wiggins, executive assistant and office operations manager; and Blake Wintory, Ph.D., director of preservation.

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