LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, Georgia — Following on the heels of being awarded “Best Finishing Hole in America Since 2000” by Golf Digest, the ownership of McLemore has confirmed that bonds have been sold to fund the construction of a 245-room lodge, conference center and spa along the eastern edge of Lookout Mountain, Georgia.
Construction will commence next month. The soon-to-be named lodge will open in late 2023. The effort was led by Steve Coma, director of Hilltop Securities and co-managed by Truist Bank. The total bond offering will provide over $188 million in funding for the project.
The lodge at McLemore will be a Curio Collection Hotel by Hilton and is projected to provide approximately 2,000 construction jobs. Once opened, the lodge, conference center and spa will employ over 300 full-time, direct employees. Atlanta-based General Contractor, New South Construction has obtained permits for land disturbance, as well as for foundations. Chattanooga-based, GenTech Construction will provide Construction Management services.
McLemore President Duane Horton notes, “McLemore’s world-class team has been together for the better part of a decade. This milestone is a testament to their commitment and perseverance to create a destination to serve our community and guests for generations to come.”
He noted that one of the most critical members of the team has been Chattanooga-based law firm Miller & Martin. “Miller & Martin has been working with us since the very beginning,” shared Horton. “In the end, there were over a dozen law firms and untold attorney’s involved on this transaction. The skill of negotiation with a get it done attitude were crucial to the success of this effort.”
The five-star lodge, conference center and spa will offer multi-level dining and entertainment terraces, infinity edge pools and spas, as well as spaces that blend the building with the landscape, including a large outdoor events venue. The completed facility will provide banquet and meeting space for corporate events and weddings, as well as on-site lodging for golfers, families and couples looking for a romantic getaway.
“We met with a number of hotel groups and selected Hilton because of their enthusiasm for the project and location,” notes Horton. “The Curio Collection by Hilton gives us the flexibility to design this project in a manner that respects the natural setting, local history, and the vision provided by our world- class team.”
Numerous on-site amenities are planned for guests to the McLemore property, including swimming pools, a fitness facility, yoga studio, and retail center. An outdoor program will also provide guests with guides and gear to enjoy the numerous outdoor activities available at McLemore and the surrounding area, including hiking, rock climbing and bouldering, mountain biking and road cycling, spelunking, hang gliding, and paragliding.
“McLemore is surrounded by thousands of acres of federal and state parks and protected wildlife areas,” observes Horton. “We are looking forward to introducing people to the undiscovered natural beauty of northwest Georgia and the tremendous opportunities the Chattanooga metropolitan area has to offer.”
Hart Howerton Master Planner, Roland Aberg, asserts,“McLemore is and will be a landmark destination. Every venue within the hotel is designed in response to the unique nuances of Lookout Mountain’s rugged terrain — from its dining options, indoor and outdoor bar options, to the conference center and variety of guest accommodations. The lodge will offer stunning views of McLemore Cove, Pigeon Mountain and the Blue Ridge Mountains.”
Providing hospitality management oversight is Atlanta-based Valor Hospitality, which is led by Glaswegian, Euan McGlashan, whose launch of the Cape Grace hotel in South Africa secured the number one spot in the world by Condé Nast Traveler’s 2000 Reader’s Choice award.
“McLemore provides us with the unique opportunity to continue our mission of reimagining hospitality,” says McGlashan. “The mixture of southern hospitality with Valor’s service-based DNA gives us an extraordinary opportunity to position McLemore as a world-class destination.”
McGlashan’s team is currently managing Club operations at McLemore, including The Creag restaurant and the Stay & Play program, with the oversight of General Manager, Tom Schreiner.
Adding to the line-up are Craig Peavy and Thomas Palmer, each a principal in Chattanooga-based firm, Tinker Ma, and Architects of Record for the hotel at McLemore. “We challenged ourselves to create a place that is both reflective of and complimentary to McLemore’s vistas,” says Peavy. “Bringing such an economic catalyst to the region is going to be a journey of a lifetime.”
Adds Palmer, “Our greatest desire is for our work to celebrate this place and create opportunities for more people to discover and appreciate the natural beauty of McLemore and Walker County.”
As Horton considers the future of McLemore, he notes that none of the progress made would be possible without support from Walker County leaders. “From the first meeting with Commissioner Whitfield and Robert Wardlaw, they were open to our ideas and encouraged us to do all we could to meet local needs. We’re encouraged by the fact that our efforts will be transformational to the place that has been so supportive to our efforts.”
McLemore leadership worked closely with representatives from the State of Georgia and officials from Walker County. “While a project like this will bring numerous visitors to Walker County, I’m also excited about the benefits it will yield for our citizens,” says Chairman Shannon Whitfield of the Walker County Board of Commissioners. “The creation of good paying jobs with benefits will provide economic stability and prosperity for many families in our community.”
Echoing Commissioner Whitfield, Georgia State Senator Jeff Mullis said, “I believe that northwest Georgia will quickly become a beacon of tourism in the southeastern United States as a result of this project.”
He adds, “Increased revenue from out-of-state tourism dollars will have a ripple effect on the communities surrounding McLemore, impacting everyone for the positive. I, along with the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority, Top of Georgia and our partners, are honored to take part in this phenomenal project.”
Horton noted that working with the State of Georgia was made possible the with support of Senator Jeff Mullis who has championed the project since the first day we met. “Senator Mullis is a tireless public servant and we are blessed to have his leadership,” said Horton.
Robert Wardlaw, Executive Director of the Walker County Economic Development Authority, said, “I have been impressed by Duane Horton and his team and their cooperation with our county and state officials. They have done everything they said they would do. We look forward to continuing to work with them to bring needed jobs and revenue to Walker County and the surrounding area.”
“Ultimately, this project has been a team effort by some of the best in their industries,” Horton notes. “Having been raised in McLemore Cove and Walker County, it is rewarding to have the opportunity to create something that will benefit our community and region for years to come. We are thankful for everyone contributing to this effort and the leadership of our board and executive team. We are committed to the area and believe in the enormous possibilities of its future.”