Artist rendering shows proposed Hilton Curio Collection hotel, convention complex and spa to be built at McLemore Resort on Lookout Mountain in Walker County, Ga.

This story was updated April 10, 2018, at 01:59 p.m. with more information.

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Developer hopes to breathe new life into Canyon Ridge Resort project

A $100 million resort planned atop Lookout Mountain in Walker County, Ga., will be anchored by a Hilton's Curio Collection hotel, developer Duane Horton said Tuesday.

Horton, president of Chattanooga-based Scenic Land Co., told the Walker County Development Authority Tuesday that he hopes to build and open the 200-room hotel with a Hilton franchise and an adjacent conference center and spa by 2020.

The resort hotel and conference center are projected to draw tourists, golfers and conventioneers to the former Canyon Ridge golf course development now known as McLemore Resort.

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Scenic Land Company President Duane Horton looks out from an overlook near the site of the planned Canyon Ridge Resort.

"The McLemore Resort is a perfect intersection for business travelers during the week and leisure guests on the weekends," said Horton, a native of Northwest Georgia. "No place in the Southeastern United States is as conveniently located and rich in natural amenities as we are."

Horton said the Hilton franchise "allows us to develop a property authentic to Lookout Mountain while leveraging Hilton's reservation system and its renowned Hilton Honors guest-loyalty program."

Although Horton said he does not have the investors lined up yet to finance all his plans, he said he is confident that the scenic 800-acre-plus site and the Hilton name will make the project successful.

"I have every confidence that it's going to happen," he said.

Horton said he plans to invest $3 million to $3.5 million to renovate the mountaintop golf course this summer. He said workers will start construction on that part of the project in May.

The golf course design is by Rees Jones and Bill Bergin and Horton said he plans on a a soft opening for the new course around Thanksgiving, followed by a grand opening in the spring of 2019.

The next stage at McLemore Resort is the development of the clubhouse with a restaurant, meeting room and locker rooms. Horton said he hopes to have a plan ready for the clubhouse in 30 to 60 days.

The golf course will be private, but guests at the hotel or renters of the community around the golf course will also be able to use it, Horton said.

Hilton officials said the McLemore resort fits with Hilton's growing upscale portfolio of Curio Collection properties.

"We could not be more enthusiastic about the opportunity that northwest Georgia and east Tennessee represent for our brand," said Matt Wehling, senior vice president, development for North America Hilton. "As the first high-end resort in the area, the distinctive property will offer one-of-a-kind mountaintop experiences for guests and is an ideal addition to the expanding global collection."

Horton describes Curio as a 4-1/2 star hotel, insisting that he didn't want a 5-star hotel of the site.

"There's unneeded cost that goes along with that," Horton said. "Plus it restricts who we can bring in. We want it to be as high quality as we can be and be as inclusive to all the corporations and any visitors that would come and protect all the history and beauty and geological wonders."

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The McLemore Hotel is slated to set atop Lookout Mountain and above McLemore Cove in Walker County, Ga. (Contributed rendering)

The new hotel will sit more than 2,000 feet above sea level, providing guests with cliff-side views across the pristine McLemore Cove and Pigeon Mountain and more than 20,000 acres of protected wilderness area.

Horton said McLemore "will be a success, whether a hotel is built or not," although he remains confident the resort hotel will be a part of the complex within a couple of years.

"Were going to be patient and do this right," he said.

McLemore Cove is being aided by property tax breaks approved by Walker County to aid the project. Walker County Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield said McLemore Resort should create more than 200 jobs and boost economic activity throughout the county.

"The McLemore Resort will provide a tangible boost to the local economy through job creation and tourism dollars from out-of-state visitors," he said. "It represents a tremendous opportunity for economic growth in northwest Georgia."

As part of the deal, Whitfield agreed to freeze the appraised value of the land, allowing the hotel owners not to have to pay additional property taxes on the investments made to upgrade the property. Residents of the Canyon Ridge community also agreed to become a special tax district, doubling their property taxes to fund improvements in the area like paved roads and sewer lines.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

A previous version of this story said Duane Horton would open the hotel in 2020, based on a press release issued on his behalf today. But Horton says he does not know exactly when the project will finish.