There is perhaps no parcel of land in Haywood County that generates as much interest as the one that’s home to long-shuttered mountaintop amusement park Ghost Town in the Sky, but as social media misinformation continues to arise, the property’s developers are now revealing tantalizing details of the incredibly complex plan for the venture and the progress that’s already been made.
“We can’t put the cart before the horse,” said one developer, who has been speaking exclusively with The Smoky Mountain News on the condition of anonymity since October 2019.
First, as to the park itself, the financial ramifications of the Coronavirus Pandemic did indeed get in the way of speedy progress during 2020. According to developers, a number of the water and sewer issues that have plagued the property in the past have now been resolved, clearing the way for improvements.
The park’s quaint main street, home to fanciful establishments like the Red Dog Saloon, a jail and several cafes, will be gutted and completely rehabbed.
The disused, weathered buildings have done little more than rot over the past few years and had also been subject to vandalism before a high-tech security system and a stepped-up law enforcement presence was recently put into place.
The buildings, however, will be rehabbed — faithful 3-D renderings will ensure that the new main street remains almost indistinguishable from the facades lovingly remembered by generations of tourists and locals since the 1960s; at this point in time, it’s cheaper to start from scratch with ADA-compliant modern amenities than it is to attempt to salvage what the ravages of time have wrought on the structures.
Ultimately, what’s next for the main street is very similar to a Biltmore Village concept. The ground floor of the buildings will be home to unique shops and boutiques, and possibly even some brand-name retail or dining outlets as well. The second floor of those buildings will eventually be sold or leased as condominiums for residential use.
At the base of Buck Mountain, a new hotel will be constructed on the west end of the parking lot, facing east. According to developers, a major national chain is interested, but regardless, the building will have a “lodge-like” appearance so as to blend with the environment. Behind and above that, just to the west, will be a smattering of vacation rental cottages.
As it turns out, the plan for Ghost Town doesn’t just involve the former amusement park; there exists in Maggie Valley a critical need for all manner of infrastructure to support the project, especially in terms of workforce availability and development.
More than 200 employees will be needed to operate and maintain the park, but those people can’t just walk off the street and start working. They’ll need training to operate new rides, and whatever rides remain after renovation.
Those employees will also need somewhere to live. The housing crisis that’s plagued Western North Carolina continues in full force, so a number of new affordable housing developments in the vicinity of, but not on, the property itself will begin to appear.
There are also plans for a new manufacturing facility that will build modular homes to populate these affordable housing developments.
Maggie Valley also lacks other essential businesses that would be needed to support the new venture, including a high-volume restaurant or two. Plans are underway to remedy this as well as two other critical needs that would make Maggie Valley more of a live/work community than it is today — a grocery store and an urgent care facility.
There are some big names associated with the project — instantly recognizable to most — but ongoing discussions prevent their disclosure.
Further details on the Ghost Town revitalization project will be released by The Smoky Mountain News as they become available in the coming months.