Ever driven down the parkway in Pigeon Forge toward Gatlinburg, looked to your left and wondered what that huge river-boatish building was behind everything else?
We did, when we were in the area about a year ago. We snooped around. We tried to get back there. We found out that it was a ghost town of a once planned development called Belle Island. It’s on a 21-acre parcel of land in Pigeon Forge. It was going to be an amusement park, a Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Motion Picture Museum, a NASCAR racing experience, lots of restaurants and shops, and a mini zoo.
But Belle Island was not to be. The recession hit it hard and it went bankrupt in 2010. It sat deserted for awhile.
But according to WATE of Knoxville, the property is being sold to a new developer this week — Darby Campbell. He’s planning to rename the area Riverwalk Village. But Campbell says that it will be much the same as the plan was — with entertainers in the streets, a carnival-like area for the kids, a four-star hotel and lots of restaurants and shops. No mention of the racing experience. And he’s thinking about tearing down the landmark river boat building that was to be the Hollywood museum.
The saddest part of this story? The river boat building is the most expensive one there! It cost the previous developer $13 million, but wasn’t finished. And unless a suitable tenant can be found, Campbell plans to just tear it right down. It’s too bad — the building is something you can see from the parkway.
Pigeon Forge helped the developer out by creating a road from the parkway to the island, and also allowing the island to share a parking lot that will be for the new event center.
Campbell hopes construction is complete by summer of 2012.
Campbell’s no stranger to Pigeon Forge. According to a Pigeon Forge press release, Campbell and his partner have developed more than 150,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space in Pigeon Forge, plus two hotels. Restaurants include Bullfish Grill, Blue Moose Burgers and Wings and the Mellow Mushroom.