A $1 billion luxury fly-in resort and residential community is planned by a Chattanooga businessman in what would be the largest-ever development in Bledsoe County, Tennessee.
Called The Fields at Fall Creek and featuring a 4,200-foot airstrip, the development is planned to hold 800 homes, many with aircraft hangars, when fully built out over 20 years, said Craig Fuller, chief executive of Chattanooga-based FreightWaves and the project's developer.
Fuller - head of Flying Media Group and its flagship publication, Flying, in addition to the freight market data and analytics company - said the development is viewed as a haven for aviation enthusiasts.
"We think, geographically, it's the perfect spot for it," said Fuller in a telephone interview about the 1,500-acre tract off Old Highway 28 in the Sequatchie Valley, about 30 miles north of Chattanooga.
He said the first phase is to include 100 homes starting at $500,000 each. Groundbreaking is to begin in the spring, with some residents expected to move in as early as 2023, Fuller said.
When complete, The Fields also is to hold 180 vacation villa rentals and an outdoor adventure center along the private paved runway, Fuller said.
"The airpark is private," he said, noting people will have to live in the community to fly in and out. "It's meant to give access to pilots."
Fuller, who said he has a couple of partners in the venture, noted they took a lot of inspiration from Alpine Airpark in Wyoming at the foot of the Grand Tetons. He said that airpark is considered the world's finest and attracts affluent residents from across the globe who take advantage of outdoor activities in the Tetons.
Fuller said site is unzoned, so no rezoning will be needed to move forward. And the private airport won't require Federal Aviation Administration or state approval.
Pikeville Mayor Philip Cagle said by phone that the site, about halfway between his city and nearby Dunlap, is "a great location, a beautiful place."
"We're thrilled to death," he said about the development, adding that it will be the biggest ever in Bledsoe. "It will definitely increase the tax base."
Cagle said the location, which is a former farm, is slated to have homes in the valley as well as on the brow of an adjacent mountain.
"We love our growth. We love the right kind of growth," he said. "We're not willing to sacrifice the beauty of our town."
Fuller said when he bought Flying magazine last year, he wanted a place where the company could conduct media efforts. He scouted municipal airports in the region but found meeting federal and state regulations would take a lot of time to do what he wanted.
Initially, Fuller said he thought about just buying about 100 acres. He said that with the lack of hangar space for pilots, he hit on the idea of an aviation-themed community.
Fuller said he also considered a nearby mountaintop development in Marion County put together by Chattanoogan John "Thunder" Thornton and how he has had success bringing in people from around the nation to buy a primary or secondary residence.
Then, Fuller said, he found the farm, which is all on one parcel and wasn't expensive on a per-acre basis.
"That started the process," Fuller said. He added the site is in an opportunity zone, a federal initiative that permits tax breaks for capital gains reinvestment.
A pilot himself, Fuller said he's drawn to the beauty of the Sequatchie Valley.
The 4,200-foot runway will accommodate piston and twin-turbo airplanes, Fuller said. As the development grows, plans are to expand the runway to accommodate larger and more powerful aircraft, he said.
Hangars will connect directly to taxiways, allowing residents to park their airplanes at their homes, Fuller said.
He expects the development to ultimately become a world-class resort that blends aviation with outdoor adventure.
"We have started with a focus on aviation to build the amenities and attract residents who have a desire to live with their airplanes," Fuller said.