180425 Inspiration Landing update 1

John Ellington, a developer from Germantown, Tenn, said this past week he's pleased with the progress on the Inspiration Landing development which he first announced three years ago this month. [MATT MCKEAN/TIMESDAILY]

SHEFFIELD — A "coming soon" style sign is about to be erected off West 20th Avenue, heralding the coming of the Inspiration Landing resort development.

On Thursday, Germantown, Tennessee, developer John Elkington met with members of the Inspiration Landing Community Cooperative District board, a group that will be involved in collecting fees for sales inside the resort boundaries.

The fees, which will be attached to everything from hotel rooms to drinks to concert tickets and souvenirs, will be used to pay back a nearly $4 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan that will be used by the city to develop infrastructure at the site.

The project was announced Dec. 15, 2015. Elkington and his team have been patiently working on the project since then, going through the various permitting processes with government agencies while seeking partners and investors to participate.

"People don't realize how complicated this project is," Elkington said. "No one ever believed we would get this far."

Elkington said he would like to break ground in October.

He said the amphitheater has been downsized to a more intimate 3,500 to 4,000 seats, but that could be increased to 6,500. He said a smaller amphitheater will allow the promoter to book more shows.

There will also be an attached event center that can host concerts, home shows, car shows, etc.

There will be a microbrewery attached to the amphitheater that will be accessible to patrons. Several breweries, including an Alabama-based craft brewery, have shown interest in the project, the developer said.

Elkington said the brewery will be the first building constructed in the town center, which will have a variety of shops and restaurants. The development will have 150,000 square feet of available space for retail and entertainment.

The developer has a letter of intent from Hilton Garden Inn for a 130-room hotel that will be four or five stories tall. There will also be several boutique-style hotels on the site.

Another new addition is a Ferris wheel. Elkington said he's found a Ferris wheel that was once located in Coney Island, an amusement park in New York City, in the 1920s. He's having the wheel inspected to be sure it is structurally sound.

The developer said there will also be an interpretive center that will showcase industry in Sheffield, particularly the old blast furnaces that once existed on the site where parts of the resort will be located.

A study by the University of Alabama Office of Archaeological Research has identified a variety of remnants of the old furnaces, including a "beehive" furnace and a large slag pile.

Elkington is searching for local historians who can help research the city's industrial history for this part of the project. He also wants to involve the University of North Alabama.

Ditty TV, a digital television network dedicated to Americana and Roots-style music, will also have a presence onsite, near the amphitheater in the city center.

The theme of Inspiration Landing will center around music, history and culture of the Shoals.

Board Chairman Ronnie Wicks said he's spoken to Lisa Patterson of the accounting Patterson Prince and Associates about working with the cooperative district.

"She said she would love to work with us by the hour or on a contract basis," Wicks said.

The board voted 2-0 to hire the firm. The board includes Sheffield City Attorney Keith Worsham and Colbert County Commissioner Jimmy Gardiner, who was unable to attend Thursday's meeting.

Worsham said he would provide some basic bylaws to review at the next meeting, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 27 at the Sheffield City Hall.


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