By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. – The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) added more property to its holdings as it closed on a parcel of land in Tennessee located off of one of the state’s busiest exits on Thursday, Jan. 30.
“The EBCI’s purchase of the Dumplin Creek property, 197.524 acres located off Exit 407 of Interstate 40, is an exciting opportunity to further our economic development interests within our aboriginal territories,” said Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed. “As Principal Chief of the EBCI, I am excited about this new venture, and I look forward to working with our partners in the region to bring new offerings to the citizens of and visitors to Sevier County, Tenn. The Kituwah, LLC, an organization tasked with vetting and pursuing economic development opportunities for the EBCI, will manage this property and I am eager to see what proposals they come up with.”
Tribal officials noted there are no immediate plans to pursue gaming on the property and declined comment on the amount paid for the property.
Mark Hubble, Kituwah LLC executive director, said, “The purchase closed yesterday (Jan. 30) along with the transfer to the LLC. We can now begin the process to determine the highest and best use for the property. We have already been approached by several prospective tenants, but some just wanted to purchase parcels. We expect that a mix of restaurants, hotels, and entertainment options will be the primary focus of development.”
He added, “The key is finding the anchor draw attractions. We have been in contact with some potential consultants and brokers but now that we have closed, we will begin the process of sending out RFPs for various services. We have had discussions with the company that helped demolish the mountain and have some very preliminary estimates of what the site preparation budget might look like, but once we get the full site planned out we will be in a position to budget the cost and revenue projections from a mixture of projects that we will operate and leases on parcels. We are very confident that the site will be a very successful development that will benefit the Tribe for decades.”
According to Mark Nagi, TDOT community relations officer, “Approximately 10 to 12 million vehicles per year utilize the I-40 Exit 407 interchange.”
The Tribe purchased 122 acres in 2019 off the Exit 407 and just north of the Tennessee Smokies stadium. Tribal Council approved purchase of that property in February 2019 and the sale became official in late spring. The One Feather reported at the time that property was appraised for around $10.5 million with property owners asking $7.5 million which is what the Tribe paid.
“It is at a fraction of what the surrounding and adjoining properties area,” Chief Sneed said during Budget Council on Feb. 5, 2019. “This is a great opportunity for economic development in that region. The land is an outstanding commercial property that can be developed in other ways.”