At a time when many developers are postponing their pipelines, a company out of North Carolina is pressing ahead with a project that would put the Mall of America to shame. Cataloochee Companies LLC, a Clyde, N.C.-based developer, plans to break ground next year on Phase I of Cataloochee Wilderness Resort — a 196-million-square-foot mixed-use center in Jonathan Valley, N.C. that will combine residential, hospitality, recreation and retail components. The firm believes the market is full of people ready to buy second homes and vacation houses in the prime location 30 miles away from Asheville, N.C. and contiguous to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“You stop and think about it, and you realize that almost two-thirds of the U.S. population lives within a 500-mile radius of the site,” says Frank Wood, president of Cataloochee Companies. The retail centerpiece of the development will be the Cataloochee Village Commons, a 1.2-million-square-foot lifestyle center. Cataloochee has already signed a tentative agreement for a 450,000-square-foot space with the furniture showroom the Home Store. The rest of the property will be filled with small-format, mid-price retailers. The firm is still arranging financing for the project, but it hopes to break ground within the next 90 to 120 days. Wood admits getting financing for such a large project proved challenging, but thinks that the resort will come on the market at the right time. The entire project will cost approximately $8 billion and will be built in seven phases over the course of several decades.