The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians plans to develop a new “experiential destination” at Sevierville’s busy Exit 407. The 200-acre mixed-use development will serve as a gateway and “first stop” for more than 11 million tourists who travel through Sevier County to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park every year.
The land, purchased last year for $13.5 million, represents a major project for landowner Kituwah LLC. The land is located between the major metropolitan areas of Knoxville, Tenn., and Asheville, N.C., just off Interstate 40 at the Sevierville exit.
“Our tribe established Kituwah LLC to move at the pace of business and to diversify our economic interests in areas other than gaming,” said Principal Chief Richard Sneed. “We are pleased with the strong interest in the property and look forward to strengthening partnerships with Sevier County.”
Kituwah CEO Mark Hubble, who has helped other tribes nationally to build tribal-owned businesses for the benefit of enrolled members, sees this development as a rare opportunity. “This land is strategically located and has the benefit of significant infrastructure investment from prior development attempts,” Hubble said.
OE Experiences, a Knoxville-based firm, has been retained to identify the highest and best use of the development and to seek out development partners. Matthew Cross, of OE Experience, said this is a unique opportunity for the tribe to form strategic partnerships in one of the best tourism markets in the country.
While the vision for the development remains flexible, the organizers say it will feature a common theme or narrative that heightens the experience for visitors. Tourists and shoppers will have dining options, unique shopping experiences, and entertainment attractions that fit the overall theme and vision.
As the Covid pandemic continues to challenge future planning efforts nationwide, confidence remains cautiously optimistic for the development. Cross said, “We are keeping our expectations managed about the future. It is too early to know how exactly the virus will affect us long-term. However, we are seeing that most people feel safer in their car than on an airplane. That is great news for this market, as we are one of the most drivable destinations in the country with most of the nation’s population east of the Mississippi River living within a one-day-drive of the Smoky Mountains.”
OE Experiences is currently collecting bids and proposals from interested parties to codevelop portions of the site. SIG Real Estate’s Keith Widmer is acting as broker on the development and accepting applications for lease.
Rick Laney heads Rick Laney Marketing in Knoxville.