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PIGEON FORGE, TN-Work is under way on $90 million worth of new development in this east Tennessee resort town, which is home to Dollywood and situated adjacent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the most visited national parks in the nation.

In the largest of three projects, Southern Venue Development LLC is developing Belle Island Village, a $60-million destination attraction. Its opening is anticipated in the spring of 2005. As well, Holrob Investments is developing Walden’s Landing, an estimated $15-million specialty retail center slated to open Memorial Day 2004. The third project, also a $15-million venture, is a 110,000-sf destination retailing facility called Boyds Bear Country that will open in the fall of 2004 and include a 500-seat restaurant.

Leon Downey, the city’s executive director of tourism, says the developments will add more than a hundred new retail businesses and dozens of restaurant and food operations to the city, which receives some 11 million visitors each year. “This is an exciting time,” he says.

Walden’s Landing, located on the Parkway toward the north end of Pigeon Forge, where Ogle’s Water Park used to be, will have space for 28 stores and restaurants in a town square design. It will include a 70-ft-tall courthouse, tree-lined sidewalks with benches and a replica of an old-town fire hall, replete with a restored 1939 Dodge Hunter Pumper fire engine. Businesses already signed on include Calhoun’s Restaurant, Thomas Kinkade Galleries, the Atlanta Bread Company, Birkenstock Shoes, the Garden Gate and the Tool Zone. In all, there will be 58,000 sf of retail and restaurant space.

Boyds Bear Country will be on the opposite end of town, off the Parkway on Cates Lane. It is part of publicly traded Boyds Collection Ltd., a leading domestic designer, importer and distributor of branded giftware products whose tagline is the “World’s Most Humongous Teddy Bear Store.” The first Boyds Bear Country opened in Gettysburg, PA, in 2002, attracting approximately one million people in 2003. The Boyds Bear Country building will be styled after a traditional bank barn and will feature three floors of merchandise, including an area for shoppers to design and make their own bears and other collectible animals.

Covering 21 acres in the heart of the city, on an island created by two branches of the Little Pigeon River, Belle Island Village will include more than 250,000 sf of retail, restaurant and attractions space. Approximately 75 specialty stores and a dozen restaurants are anticipated. In addition, there will be stages for live entertainment, a carousel, a Ferris wheel and other attractions. There also will be 120 hotel suites located on the second floor throughout the village. Its architecture will reflect a traditional 1930s southern town, and most of its restaurants will offer waterfront dining, some with outside decks along the river.

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