Developer purchases Belle Island Village for $10 million

Developer purchases Belle Island Village for $10 million

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The better part of a decade has passed since the retail and entertainment complex was first announced. The better part of a decade has passed since the retail and entertainment complex was first announced.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

PIGEON FORGE (WATE) - A new owner hopes to breathe new life into the former Belle Island Village project, now dubbed "The Island at Pigeon Forge."

The better part of a decade has passed since the retail and entertainment complex was first announced.

Progress stalled almost three years ago, leaving buildings and public spaces unfinished.

In downtown Knoxville Monday afternoon, a new deal was signed as the property's developer works to get the project back on track.

Developer Darby Campbell closed on a $10 million deal to officially buy Belle Island Village from Regions Bank.

"We think that we have a chance for making a success of it. We do feel very strongly about what's going on in Pigeon forge. We're excited about the future," Campbell said.
    
The property has sat vacant for more than three years. In September, Campbell's company, LeConte Village, LLC failed to reach a deal with Regions.  

"Through all the ups and downs, we're really excited to be here," he said.

Belle Island's previous developer poured in $80 million, with plans for entertainment, restaurant and hotel venues.

Campbell says he will mostly stick to those original plans. "We are working with several tenants, large tenants, which those combined would be about $75 million-$80 million of additional investments in the island," he said.

Campbell won't say what exact attractions will be coming.

The city of Pigeon Forge will kick in $5 million to build a road to the island and other infrastructure improvements.

"It's a very exciting project for the city of Pigeon Forge. The revenue it will generate will be a big impact for our tourism development zone," said Pigeon Forge Assistant City Manager Eric Brackins.

The most expensive and largest building on the property once destined to be the Debbie Reynolds Museum and theater will be demolished to make way for the city-built road.

Campbell says it cost the previous developer $13 million to build the theater. "We hate that," he added. "It's a $13 million building, but it's in the way. It's kind of out of place. At the price we're paying, we can afford to make the changes to ensure the success of the island."

The project is expected to employ between 400 and 500 people when finished.

The island's grand opening is expected to happen sometime in spring 2013, but Campbell says it could be as early as next fall.

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