180425 Inspiration Landing update 1

John Elkington, a developer from Germantown, Tennessee, spoke Wednesday to the Sheffield Kiwanis club. [MATT MCKEAN/TIMESDAILY]

SHEFFIELD — Now that road and utility infrastructure construction is underway, John Elkington said he's happy with where the ambitious Inspiration Landing resort project is today.

During a telephone interview ahead of his appearance Wednesday before the Sheffield Kiwanis club, the Germantown, Tennessee, developer said there should be no more federal government approvals to go through for the development on the east side of Spring Creek.

The east side is where a 62,000 square-foot event center, amphitheater, town center with unique restaurants and shops will be located. Future development on the west side will include a marina near the mouth of Spring Creek and a residential component.

Elkington said about 70% of the town center has letters of intent or memorandums of understanding from a number of businesses, including Wintzel's Oyster House, the Rum Boogie Cafe from Memphis, Tennessee, Lewis and Clark Outfitters, Uncle Boo's Catfish, and an Alabama Retail Row, featuring unique Alabama retailers like Red Land Cotton.

There will also be a microbrewery and distillery in the town center, three hotels and a 10-screen movie theater. He said more tenants will be announced later this year.

He said American roots music network, Ditty TV, will have a presence in the town center, and will begin airing videos showcasing interviews with Shoals musicians and personalities in June.

"They have 5 million viewers around the world," Elkington said.

Elkington said road and utility infrastructure will be completed by June.

"That will give us a surface to get into the project," he said. "In the beginning, people said we couldn't get this done and they were very negative."

He is also working with Jerry Phillips about making Big River Broadcasting the exclusive radio station of the new amphitheater.

Elkington stressed the need to utilize local contractors and materials providers as much as possible, including minority-owned businesses.

"We're really pleased where we are right now," he said. "It took a long time, but we didn't give up."

Elkington said he's spent 367 days in Sheffield over the past five years.

He stressed that the project is not just about Sheffield, but the entire Shoals area, with a focus on the musical legacy that exists here. He told a downtown Sheffield businessman that Inspiration Landing would help increase business, not harm it.

"The rising tide lifts all the boats," he said. "We have to start thinking like a region."

Shoals Chamber of Commerce President Caitlin Holland agrees Inspiration Landing will benefit the entire Shoals, and be a positive force in attracting other businesses to the area.

Business and industry, she said, often look at the quality of life in an area before deciding where to locate.

She said a Tennessee Valley Authority official told her the presence of a microbrewery in a community indicates it's a place that's not afraid to try new things, that it has a vibrant downtown and the population to support it.


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