By Beth Lawrence
Jackson County could soon have a high-end high-rise hotel.
The goal of The Cherokee at Sequoyah National Golf Club is to drive more traffic to the golf course and attract visitors who might not otherwise think of coming to the area, said Zeke Cooper, vice president of business development for Dream Catcher Hotels.
“Obviously, there’ll be some casino visitors there that want a different experience than just staying at the property,” he said. “This also gives the tribe the opportunity to increase revenue and awareness at the golf course by promoting golf stay and play packages to families and groups. It’s a different way to diversify revenue streams for the golf course.”
In early 2019, Dream Catcher Hotels and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians asked that zoning ordinances in the U.S. 441 Gateway Ordinance be changed to accommodate the structure.
The ordinance previously allowed for a golf course community and businesses that would support course operations. Structures could be no taller than 35 feet.
Sequoia National Golf Course asked that hotels and motels taller than 35 feet be added to a list of special uses, meaning they would need approval from the planning council.
Dream Catcher, of Memphis, Tennessee, and the tribe plan to build a $26-million, 75-foot-tall, six-story, 125-room hotel.
The “boutique” hotel is expected to offer upscale rooms, a restaurant serving three meals a day and conference facilities.
“The tribe is co-developer on this project,” Cooper said. “The tribe is funding the project. The tribe will own the project.”
The operation will bring between 65 and 75 jobs to the area. Hiring preference will be given to members of the Cherokee tribe.
If the project is given the go ahead by Jackson County, construction could begin by late summer, and doors could be open to guests by fall 2021.
“We would hope to be opening at the same time the project at the casino is going to open,” Cooper said.
Dreamcatcher is also working on the 725 room expansion at Harrah’s Casino for the tribe.
Dreamcatcher is in the early stages of the golf course development.
“We’re still in the process of county approval,” Cooper said. “Now we’ve got to file for our special use permit which we’ll be doing in the next month or so.”
The next step is a balloon test, according to the new ordinance guidelines. Developers will send a 10 foot by 4 foot balloon upward to the proposed height of the building Saturday, Feb. 15, with the rain date Sunday, Feb. 16. The test is done so that neighbors, the county and others might understand any visual disruption the building might have on the area and the viewshed.
The hotel is not the only change.
A separate project will be taking place at the golf course alongside hotel construction.
“The tribe is going to start doing some significant upgrades to the course rebuilding a lot of the bunkers and re-sodding all the fairways, tees and grounds,” Cooper said.