State approves demolition of the Inn at Fall Creek Falls
By Bobby Lee McCulley | November 30, 2017 9:51 am
Tennessee’s State Building Commission recently granted approval to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to demolish and build new lodging options for Fall Creek Falls State Park.
Officials with TDEC presented their plan to demolish two current lodging facilities at Fall Creek Falls State Park and construct a new single lodging facility. This new lodging facility will have 85 rooms and feature a state-of-the-art restaurant and conference center at the Van Buren County-based 28,000-acre state park.
What is different with this proposed plan is that once the new lodging facility, restaurant, and conference center is constructed, the TDEC will continue to be the operator of the Inn at Fall Creek Falls State Park and the restaurant. Previous attempts to have a new lodging facility and restaurant built required that a private contractor operate the property.
After years of attempts and after receiving zero offers from private contractors to operate the lodging, restaurant, and conference center at Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam abandoned his efforts to privatize the hospitality services at state parks. However, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is still moving forward with its goal of building a new lodging facility at Fall Creek Falls State Park.
On Nov. 9, the State Building Commission held a meeting to discuss new plans that were submitted by TDEC about the Inn at Fall Creek Falls State Park. Bob Martineau, TDEC commissioner, presented the new plan that instead of renovating the current facilities called for the demolition of the inn and construction of new facilities.
Martineau stated to the State Building Commission members that the hospitality facilities at Fall Creek Falls State Park were beyond renovation and required a complete reconstruction. Commission members requested clarification about concerns of the state employees at the inn, as well as concerns of sales tax revenue losses that Van Buren County would experience during the construction process.
According to Martineau, the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration is working on a fiscal plan to address the tax loss experienced by Van Buren County during the construction phase of the new lodging facility and restaurant. TDEC officials stated that the new inn and conference center would generate more revenue than the current facilities.
TDEC’s construction project is estimated to cost approximately $25 million. The project to demolish and construct the new loading facility is expected to take approximately two years.
TDEC stated during the State Building Commission meeting that they planned to retain the vast majority of state employees who work at the current Inn at Fall Creek Falls State Park. However, no additional specifics were given during the meeting about the number of employees that would be retained or if any would lose their employment with the state during this process.
After discussion of the newly proposed TDEC plan to demolish the current facilities and construct a new lodging facility, restaurant and conference center, the State Building Commission voted to approve the plan. Demolition and construction is expected to begin in May 2018, according to TDEC officials.