Note: This story was updated to reflect that bonds were sold by developers, not Walker County.
The biggest single new investment ever in Walker County is taking shape atop Lookout Mountain, where a luxury hotel retreat and a second golf course are planned adjacent to the award-winning McLemore golf course.
Duane Horton, the Chattanooga developer and president of McLemore, said in a telephone interview that the 245-room Cloudland Lodge and the proposed new Outpost golf course are designed to draw tourists and business groups from around the country to Northwest Georgia. Both the new 18-hole golf course and the 245-room Curio Collection by Hilton hotel are scheduled to open in early 2024.
“We’re about 50% complete with construction (of the convention hotel), and we hope to start selling hotel rooms right after the first of the year,” Horton said. “We’re going to start building our sales team, and we want to give people in this community the first opportunity to work here. We’re really thrilled about the community that we are building and the destination that we have become and that we are continuing to grow.”
Construction of the new convention hotel is slated to be done by the end of 2023, and Horton said he envisions opening the new hotel in either February or March of 2024.
In addition to The Cloudland Lodge, McLemore’s management plans another golf course in addition to the 18-hole Highlands Course. Named “The Outpost,” the 18-hole, cliff-edge Bill Bergin and Rees Jones designed course is planned to open concurrently with The Cloudland Lodge.
Scenic Land Co. officials, whose company developed McLemore, will brief Walker County government leaders on the status of the new Cloudland Lodge at a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the LaFayette-Walker County Library at 305 S. Duke St. in LaFayette, Georgia.
Last year, more than $188 million of tax-exempt bonds were sold by the developers to finance the development of the hotel and conference center along the eastern edge of Lookout Mountain next to the McLemore golf course. Already, Horton said the development is boosting employment, tax revenues and the overall appeal of Walker County.
Property taxes on the Coudland Lodge will be waived for the next 10 years, but Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield said in a statement county government has no financial liability in the project.
The project is also getting sales tax incentives under the Georgia Tourism Development Act adopted in 2013. McLemore will be allowed to use the additional state sales tax revenues generated by the project to help repay the bonds over the next 10 years.
The lodge is projected to provide approximately 2,000 construction jobs, and more than 400 jobs are expected to be added at McLemore from the new hotel, golf course and other amenities.
The new hotel and conference center will be on par with major business resorts such as Greenbrier in West Virginia and the Reynolds Plantation in Georgia, Horton said.
“The vision of our investors and board has allowed us to make a positive impact on the local tax base,” Horton, the president of Scenic Land Co., said in a statement. “Property values within McLemore and tourism numbers in the area have risen significantly over the past four years. This is good news for the people of Dade and Walker counties and those working in tourism and hospitality in the region.
Golf Digest magazine last year recognized the McLemore golf course as having two of the best golf course holes in America. The 18-hole golf course opened in 2019 as the development, originally known as Canyon Ridge, was renamed to McLemore Cove.
The existing McLemore golf course also was named a “Top 10 Greatest Finishing Holes in Golf” and “Top 10 Single Course Destination” by Links magazine.
McLemore Cove is named for the late John McLemore, a Cherokee chief and U.S. Army captain. He settled in the cove to raise his family and farm the land.
The convention center was first talked about nearly two decades ago when the Lookout Mountain development began as Canyon Ridge. The planned convention facility will provide banquet and meeting space for corporate events and weddings, as well as on-site lodging for golfers, families and couples looking for a romantic getaway.
Horton said McLemore is within a two-hour drive for over 14 million people and is positioned as an outdoor-oriented meeting facility that should appeal to business conventions as well as traveling tourists.
“We are building a community that will offer an array of experiences for our guests as well as residents and members,” Horton said. “I am confident what is good for McLemore will be great for the region.”
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6340. Follow on Twitter at @Dflessner1