KNOXVILLE, TENN. – December 1, 2020 – OE Experiences, a Knoxville-based consulting and development company, knows the Smoky Mountain Region well because it is located less than 20 miles away. This month, OE Experiences and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians economic development entity Kituwah, LLC announced a massive development on 200 pristine acres surrounding the southern side of Sevierville’s busy Exit 407 off Interstate 40. The mixed-use development – billed as an “experiential destination” – will serve as a gateway and first stop to the Great Smoky Mountains.
East Tennessee is home to the Great Smoky Mountains, the nation’s most-visited national park. Every year, approximately 12 million visitors travel to the Smokies in part because the park is within a one-day drive of most population centers east of the Mississippi River. Virtually all the car traffic travels through the busy Exit 407 to get to the park.
“This project represents a major step for the Smoky Mountain Region and for OE Experiences,” said Matthew Cross, founding partner and CEO of OE Experiences. “We started this company because we recognized the need for an experience economy company that combines vast business acumen with the creativity required for experiential attractions and entertainment venues.”
OE Experiences focuses on engaging and highly experiential business models that command premium return on investment. Guests expectations rise each year as new technology and products allow for increasingly customized and transformative experiences. The OE Experiences team combines creative ideas with financial and business expertise to develop executable projects with excess return potential. Founding Partner & CFO Lewis Frazer, who served as CFO of Regal Cinemas, and as CEO of a software development company, has been on every side of multi-billion-dollar transactions. “We’re pursuing a new approach. There are brilliant creative ideas that are being generated by today’s environment, and we’re putting those ideas to work in plans that work for today’s and tomorrow’s businesses.”
According to Cross, “OE” stands for the Overview Effect, a term coined by author Frank White, which describes the profound impact on astronauts caused by seeing our planet from space: our small, miracle home in an infinite universe. This moving sentiment inspired Cross in today’s experience economy to create, support, and operate sustainable businesses that entertain customers, enlighten people, and engage people uniquely.
The land at Exit 407 in East Tennessee, purchased last year for $13.5 million, represents a major project for the business development entity of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) known as Kituwah, LLC, which owns the land. The land is located between the major metropolitan areas of Knoxville, Tenn. and Asheville, NC just off Interstate 40 in Sevierville. “We’re respectful of this opportunity. This is a big transaction for the tribe and they are looking to better two communities with this project. Our local community with a novel development, and their own community with a highly performing asset.” Cross says of the opportunity.
OE Experiences was retained to identify the highest and best use of the development and to seek out development partners. One of the companies partnering on the project is Mycotoo, the global entertainment agency that specializes in creating compelling immersive experiences for theme parks around the world.
“OE Experiences attempts to place itself as close to the client as possible, and we form strategic partnerships unique to each project’s needs,” Cross said. “Mycotoo was best-positioned to be Creative Lead and identify the ‘how’ of delivering a unique, high-fidelity development that complimented developer outlined business concepts. The Mycotoo team is highly creative and highly experienced. It was key that their ideas were executable.”
OE Experiences currently refers to the first phase of the Exit 407 project as the “Roadside District,” but stresses that it is a working name only – not the official name of the development. The area will feature themed entertainment attractions and venues, dining options, and unique shopping experiences that fit a multi-generational “Great American Roadtrip” theme.
While no featured attractions, restaurants or retail stores have been announced, Cross said there will be a combination of nationally known and recognized brands and unique, authentic and local businesses sharing the spotlight. The property will also feature landmark icons that will serve as eye-catchers for interstate travelers and moments for family poses and lighthearted fun.
OE Experiences serves as an owner’s representative and project manager on experientially focused developments. The company’s history provides a unique financially-driven perspective emphasizing return on investment and successful execution of vision. The OE Experiences story spans the nation with developments of all sizes. Managing a project through conception, master planning, pricing, construction documentation, build, and operation is a complex and rigorous process. The calm, relationship and analytically driven approach to building integrated project delivery teamsenhances the projects they manage.
Cross said, “Today’s greatest opportunities in all lines of business are those that engage customers in a customized, interactive way. OE Experiences is passionate about helping businesses thrive in this competitive landscape.”