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Ideas aplenty for old mill
Rock Island - old Mill.jpg
The fate of the old mill at Rock Island State Park is the topic of much discussion.

There are plenty of new ideas about what to do with the old mill at Rock Island State Park.

Could it be transformed into a hotel with restaurant?

Would its best use be a visitor’s center?

How about a museum and gift shop with snack food such as cookies and ice cream?

The McMinnville-Warren County Industrial Development Board obtained a grant to conduct a feasibility study on the long-vacant building that may be best known for its plywood-over-the-windows look.

Conducting the study was Nashville-based Hospitality Real Estate Counselors, an advisory firm specializing in property sales, debt financing, consulting, and appraisal for the hospitality industry.

The idea of placing a hotel and restaurant at the old mill may be a popular choice for some, but surrounding business owners aren’t necessarily crazy about it, according to Industrial Development Board director Don Alexander.

“Some businesses in the area oppose it because they think it will take away from their business,” said Alexander. “The analysis also found that option is not sustainable. The building is not large enough to sustain a hotel because of the limited number of rooms which would be available.”

A blueprint showed a design where 15 guest rooms could be placed on the second floor and 16 guest rooms placed on the third floor. The first floor would contain the restaurant and two conference areas.

The analysis presented several options and pointed out how the 10 cabins at Rock Island State Park are in extremely high demand. Building more cabins around the park would be one option if the decision is made to turn the old mill into a visitor center and museum.

Treehouse rooms were also mentioned as a possibility to be placed around the park. These can be fairly elaborate, almost like a cabin, or they can be more rustic, not much more than a really nice tent.

Alexander said the IDB pursued the grant in order to provide assistance to state park officials who will be making the decision. It was also pointed out at a recent IDB meeting no renovation will take place involving the old mill until TDOT relocates the road which is right next to it. 

TDOT has been planning to move the road for several years.

“We’ve opened up the discussion and got people talking, which is what we wanted to do,” said Alexander. “Our goal is to preserve the old mill.”

The land where the old mill is located is owned by TVA, which is in the process of renegotiating its lease with the state.