31, 2004 - FORT MILL, S.C. -- A local developer who has built
subdivisions on land that once belonged to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's
former Heritage USA announced plans Friday to buy the mostly vacant
resort and much of the surrounding property.
Enterprises Inc. of Fort Mill said it has reached an agreement to buy
942 acres of the complex from the Malaysian concern that has owned it
The deal, which is not final, could effectively
wipe away many of the remnants of Bakker's religious theme park, which
once drew 6 million people annually. Today, the forlorn cluster of
buildings sits among weedy parking lots as subdivisions creep ever
Company owner Earl Coulston said the property will be
residential and commercial, but declined to reveal specifics, saying a
"master plan" will be released in two or three weeks and reviewed by
"It's going to open up this place," Coulston said. "I think we'll become part of Charlotte when we do this."
land Coulston has a contract to buy spans three counties and two states
with 563 acres in York County and 379 acres in Lancaster and
Mecklenburg counties. The land, about 15 miles south of uptown
Charlotte, includes a water park, 500-room hotel and an unfinished
21-story condominium tower that's crumbling away.
international conglomerate Malaysian United Industries, which owns the
land through its subsidiary Regent Carolina Corp., bought the
2,000-plus acres out of bankruptcy court.
Regent's lawyer Marty
Propst said Peyton Ding, general manager over property management and
sales for Regent, authorized the statement released by Coulston Friday
"Earl Coulston's track record with respect to past
transactions with the company is excellent," Propst said. He said while
the company has negotiated many contracts to purchase this property,
this is the first time a joint statement has been released.
Propst declined to provide more details about the deal. Ding couldn't be reached for comment Friday.
the proposed deal, Regent would continue to own the Regent Park golf
course and the pyramid-shaped office building that serves as offices
for Laura Ashley, maker of apparel and home furnishings. They would
also keep a separate 30-acre tract on U.S. 21, Coulston said.
old theme park has deteriorated since closing in 1997 and area leaders
have long hoped a buyer would take over the deserted Christian resort.
The land is zoned for retail, commercial and residential housing.
Entertainment Co. announced an agreement to buy the entire 2,000-acre
resort in 1998, but negotiations stalled when the parties reportedly
couldn't agree on price. Nashville-based Gaylord owns the Grand Ole
Opry and had planned to build a $200 million hotel and convention
About 1,000 acres of the old resort property has since
been sold for housing developments and small retail centers. Coulston
is the developer who spearheaded most of those deals.
62-year-old developer gained knowledge of the property as the general
manager for Regent between 1991 and 1997. He said price has not been an
issue in his negotiations with Regent.
Coulston declined to
reveal the deal's value, but said he had commitment letters from
investors who would help finance the purchase. He said he plans to
demolish some buildings, but declined to specify which ones. "It's
going to be cleaned up and revamped," he said.
Much of the
resort property's development was paid for by small donations from PTL
ministry fans across the world. In return for one-time donations,
typically $1,000, PTL had promised its "lifetime partners" three free
nights a year in the Heritage Grand Hotel or the towers for the rest of
The Christian operation unraveled in the late
1980s after federal officials began to investigate PTL's money-raising
Coulston said he expects to sell a small part of the
land to Rick Joyner with MorningStar Fellowship Church, which has
headquarter operations in Charlotte and North Wilkesboro. MorningStar
would use the land for a ministry school, he said.
leads MorningStar, confirmed earlier this month that he had signed a
confidentiality agreement regarding the property. The international
evangelical ministry has three services at its church in Charlotte
every weekend with up to 2,000 people attending, he said. The nonprofit
organization reports revenues between $5 million and $7 million
annually, Joyner said.
In the past year, Mecklenburg County
commissioner Ruth Samuelson has talked with Regent about turning some
of the property into parks and to be a connector of greenways in North
and South Carolina. She said other companies have had contracts with
Regent, but they all seemed to fall through.
"What is unique is in the past ones, they didn't go so far as to actually issue a press release," she said.
said he has a closing date for the deal and expects it to be completed
by early next year. "I've not put a piece under contract with them that
I haven't closed on and that's the truth," he said.
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