News for the Hospitality Executive
Cataloochee Companies LLC Envisions a 220 Lodge and Conference
in Western North Carolina; Designed in a Motif Reminiscent of
America’s Great National Park Lodges
|JONATHAN VALLEY, N.C. (March 31, 2008) – After five years
in the making, Cataloochee Wilderness Resort, an expansive 4,660 acre mixed-use
retail, residential and recreational destination development in Western
North Carolina, has moved from the drawing board to the operational stage,
and developer Cataloochee Companies LLC is continuing property acquisition
and ensuing permit applications, land surveys and other field activity.
Located in Haywood County in Jonathan Valley, N.C., the site is contiguous to the nation’s most visited national park—Great Smoky Mountains National Park—and a short drive from well known vacation and tourism hotspots like Asheville and Biltmore Estates, Harrah’s and the Cherokee Reservation, Maggie Valley and Gatlinburg. The National Park alone draws some 11 million visitors annually. The Harrah’s Casino draws another 4.5 million yearly visitors. Tourism flourishes in Haywood County.
Designed in a motif at once reminiscent of America’s great national
park lodges, the resort’s upscale mountain lifestyle theme combines living,
working and playing in an all-encompassing retail, residential and recreational
village complex. With premium retail as a central feature, the resort’s
surrounding residential and recreational amenities will include entertainment,
spa and fitness center, hotels and dining, world-class golf, hiking, biking,
horseback riding, fishing and water sports, along with the Great Smoky
Mountain National Park and the Pisgah National Forest as a 1.7 million
acre backcountry playground—perfect for vacationers, families and active-lifestylers
that fit the target market for the project.
Rendering - The 220 room Cataloochee Wilderness Lodge and Conference Center
The Cataloochee Wilderness Resort lies just off I-40, west of Asheville and northwest of Waynesville adjacent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in one of the fastest growing relocation markets in the nation. It is also one of the fastest growing vacation and second home markets in the country. Adjacent to massive expanses of wilderness yet in close proximity to major east coast MSAs, the resort site’s unique geography and topographic features combine with easy freeway access to give the development instant marketplace cache and viability.
Development planners have designed the resort’s residential components and engaged builders to appeal to “upscale wilderness getaway” relocation, vacation and second home market, with prices ranging from the mid-$400’s to more than $2 million. The resort’s mix of residential, retail and recreational elements will create a thriving yet sequestered, permanent community in the middle of one of the nation’s most popular tourism and vacation home destinations.
“Cataloochee Wilderness Resort is not just another mixed-use development—we’re creating an exceptional experience-based environment that expresses and celebrates the natural beauty surrounding the property. It’s a place to ‘be’ rather than a place to ‘go.’ We’re embracing the natural mountain environment and incorporating organic elements into all aspects of design. It will be a center for commerce, recreation and resort living, but it won’t look or feel at all like a typical resort. It will look like it should be here…there’s really nothing to compare it to,” said Cataloochee President Frank Wood.
Important project developments include the inclusion of Wells Fargo as a residential mortgage lender, Westin joining as hotelier for the Wilderness Lodge and construction giant Phillips and Jordan being named prime contractor for site preparation. With a blue-chip list of branded companies known for their expertise in construction management, design, engineering, sales and leasing, financial, hospitality/resort management and marketing in place, the next priorities are design and construction, and alignment of lender and financial arrangements.
Cataloochee Village Commons will be the heart of the development. It is expected to draw visitors from across the nation. The Commons is a complete lifestyle shopping experience, with over one million square feet of retail surrounded by fine dining, lodging, entertainment and recreation. It will convey the classical style and beauty of a resort village, with inner street venues, covered walkways and indoor commons. The structure will reflect the rugged landscape of the surrounding mountains with gently sloping rooflines that recall early-American national park tradition. Sidewalks feature a combination of textured concrete and inlaid natural sandstone. A seven-sided “water garden” will be the focal point of the Commons featuring a large circle of stone pillars.
Poised in the center of The Village Commons, The 450,000 square foot Home Store is one of the largest furniture showrooms in America. The Cataloochee Village Commons is located on US 276 immediately after exiting Interstate 40. The site has a half mile of frontage along the Interstate and will be visible for miles.
Over the past number of months, the company has established a local office, contracted for design, engineering, legal and land acquisition services, put development leadership on the ground locally and established the network of construction and project management disciplines necessary to bring the project to life. The development team is now concentrating on bringing the cornerstone retail component of the site on line.
Renowned design firm Urban Design Group has established a design focus in the tradition of the classic lodge for the primary structures, with peripheral architecture representing mountain village and mountain resort themes ranging from European to Appalachian and the Great American West.
Exposed timbers, wood and stone are accented by the natural attributes of the surrounding environs, which include mile-high Appalachian peaks, crystalline streams and pastoral mountain valleys. This integration approach uses natural elements, dedicated green space and geophysical features as components of the overall development concept and design. By using existing topography as a design element, the site planning team will retain the natural environmental integrity that makes the region so popular in the first place. Cultural themes will also predominate; aspects of the local Appalachian and Native American culture and art—specifically the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation—will be reflected in elements ranging from the “seven waterfalls” water feature to various design themes, colors and materials, extending to the retail site grounds and throughout the residential and resort components of the development.
This visible and practical connection to natural elements is equally critical in both market appeal and to adhere to design parameters relating to sustainability and responsible environmental stewardship, resort designers noted.
Outdoor recreation and relaxation opportunities include three championship golf courses, tennis, hiking, biking, boating and other nature based recreation. The more adventurous outdoor enthusiasts will have easy access to, canoeing, kayaking, white water rafting, fly-fishing climbing, snow skiing, backcountry travel and more. In fact, the region’s popularity for eco-tourism activities has spawned a range of service businesses that cater to the outdoors adventure market—from outfitters and gear stores to guides and tour operators—in nearby Waynesville and Asheville.
The development is expected to generate enormous economic growth, both during the construction phase and once operational. The increase in year round residents, year round construction and new retail job opportunities will require a workforce from the surrounding community that will level the seasonal tourism-heavy peaks and valleys of the area and create a more sustainable economic base. Currently, estimated development build-out costs are approaching $8 billion. Once operational, the retail center is predicted to create more than 2,000 year round jobs.
Construction will also create a local boom in the building trades that is expected to last for several years. The resort will be built in seven phases, with construction of Phases I and 2 beginning immediately, followed by other phases as sales operations for residential components of the first phases are completed.
Centered at the north end of the Jonathan Valley at the apex of I-40 and US 276, Phase I will include the Village Commons retail center, The Home Store, Cataloochee Wilderness Lodge, Conference Center and Spa and the Village Plaza retail and condo area. The Village Commons alone will employ up to 600 people for construction during the 18-month duration.
Built on 933 acres, Phase II includes the Cataloochee Country Club and its 18-hole Greg Norman-design golf course, the Auberge du luc Inn—Starwood’s premium hotel brand, and its gourmet restaurant, and Mont Bleu and Laurel Gardens gated residential communities. The Cataloochee Country Club will be the center of social activity. It will feature one of the areas premier dining locations, the Grand Lodge Room. Also included in Phase II, the Double C Ranch is a horse-lover’s haven, offering boarding for residents’ and visitors’ horses as well as horseback riding, camping and hiking excursions into the nearby National Park and National Forest.
For the more refined equestrian aficionado, the Equestrian Center will feature Olympic-quality facilities including hunter/jumper courses, field events, show rings, boarding and high-end tack and supplies.
The site’s northwest corner borders national park lands that virtually surround the property and its attendant residential component with hundreds of thousands of acres of pristine and undeveloped wilderness. While the site’s location just off Interstate 40 and US 276 west of Asheville currently sees plenty of vehicular traffic and vacationing tourists, this project will grow the area in a more permanent sense, offering unparalleled mountain-living and outdoor recreation in tandem with all the modern creature comforts.
The resort will serve as a centerpiece attraction for surrounding areas and complement already-popular tourist attractions. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is adjoining the resort, and Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, North Carolina’s top tourism attraction, is twenty minutes away, along with the rich culture and natural beauty of the Cherokee Reservation. The Blue Ridge Parkway, Chimney Rock Park, Nantahala River Gorge, Sliding Rock, mile-high Asheville and Biltmore House and Gardens are also popular neighboring tourism destinations. Nearby major cities include Asheville, Atlanta, Charlotte, Chattanooga, Greenville-Spartanburg and Knoxville—but nearly two-thirds of the nation’s population is within a day and a half drive.
Overnight visitors will have the option of staying at an on site Westin hotel at the Cataloochee Wilderness Lodge and conference center, or the more intimate and exclusive Auberge Du Luc Inn. The region is also famous for unique and charming B&Bs, rental chalets and cabins, and a good selection of locally-owned and flag hotels are available as well.
The picturesque setting, combined with interstate access, lack of competing retail centers and a robust demand for Western North Carolina residential and resort property, are huge factors in the feasibility of lifestyle center development projects like Cataloochee. The development team’s positive outlook is bolstered by a recent Western Carolina University study on social and economic trends affecting the region. In the study, Haywood County and the entire Western North Carolina region are within the epicenter of one of the nation’s top ten growth corridors for the coming decade and beyond.