Belle Island Village in new hands in Pigeon Forge

Belle Island Village in new hands in Pigeon Forge

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By ERICA ESTEP
6 News Reporter

PIGEON FORGE (WATE) - After sitting vacant for three years, the Belle Island Village development in Pigeon Forge will have a new owner by next week.

It means we could soon see progress on the half-finished project and eventually hundreds of jobs.

Belle Island still looks like a ghost town overgrown and neglected, but looking at it now, city officials see hope, instead of despair.

"To see them come over here and want to develop the island, they have a track record of very nice development, so to have them on board and be purchasing the island and developing it is very exciting," said assistant city manager Eric Brackins.

He's talking about Pigeon River Land Partners. Developer Darby Campbell says the property was appealing with most of the buildings nearly finished, but he would not have taken such a large risk if the price and access weren't right.

"I would never have done it without a parkway entrance, and I never would have spent as much money as the initial developer spent. I think there's $80 million spent here," said Campbell.

The city agreed to build a road to the island and to the event center's parking lot.

"It will be successful based upon the fact that we're paying an amount that will make it easy to be successful," Campbell said.

When asked what he paid, Campbell said, "I don't know if I'm privy to tell you that right at this time, since we hadn't closed."

The most expensive and largest building on the property was once destined to be the Debbie Reynolds' museum and theatre. It's in the shape of a river boat.

Campbell says it cost the previous developer $13 million, but its future may not be as bright as the rest of the property.

"I have no plans for the building. We can't figure out what to do with the building," added Campbell. "It's out of place. It's out of character, and unless we find the perfect person, we'll be taking it down."

Campbell is sticking to some of Belle Island Village's original plans like having entertainers in the streets, a carnival like area for kids, a four-star hotel, and several restaurants and entertainment venues.

But he says he'll change the name.

The development is expected to create 500 new jobs. The developer will pay cash for the property, and says he will give the original contractors, who lost money on the project, preference when hiring.

Counting the city's new road, we're told the total investment is about $30 million.

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