$90M Resort Eyes Northern Indiana Farmers Market

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January 8, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

American Countryside Farmers Market. Photo courtesy of the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

American Countryside Farmers Market. Photo courtesy of the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A group of Elkhart County and European investors is mulling development of a multimillion-dollar family-oriented vacation spot adjacent to American Countryside Farmers Market south of Elkhart, Ind.

The initial investment would total around $50 million and the entity, Vacation Villas, would create 450 to 500 service-sector jobs, said Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder.

Developers hope to break ground this year and have discussed spending as much as $90 million.

Yoder described Vacation Villas as a "year-round resort" catering to young, middle-income families seeking getaways of up to four days, but he wouldn't name the investors or provide many other particulars. He'll leave that for the planned discussion Monday by county commissioners of developers' request for $10 million in special bonding authority, available as part of a federal stimulus program.

Yoder spoke of the proposal, in the works for about a year, in glowing terms. It would bolster the tourist offerings here and have significant spin-off impact, even if the new service-sector jobs weren't the highest paying.

"There's big, big economic impact potential for the county in a variety of industries," Yoder said. He said the effort is based on a "tried-and-true model" in Europe.

The new development, sitting on a 200-acre plot east of American Countryside, would help fulfill the original vision of creating numerous attractions around the farmers market, which opened in 2007. As it came to life, American Countryside promoters discussed the possibility of developing an ethnic village, hotels, a water park and a camping facility adjacent to the Amish-themed entity.

Monday's proposal calls for consideration of letting Vacation Villas developers issue up to $10 million in special bonds to help develop the project.

The recovery zone bonding, as it's known, makes it cheaper to borrow money. As part of the program, the federal government covers 45% in applicable interest costs. Locals, though, are responsible for determining who may tap into the program.

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