As Jasper Highlands grows, Top of the Rock restaurant expands overlook dining, adds pizzeria

·4 min read

May 15—When the coronavirus pandemic began to limit travel and shut down much of the economy in early 2020, Dane Bradshaw worried that prospective buyers would stay away from the mountaintop development that he and developer John "Thunder" Thornton have spent the past decade building atop Jasper Mountain.

"We were certainly anxious in early 2020," Bradshaw recalled.

But in the past year, Jasper Highlands has attracted record sales from home buyers who have bought into the scenic, gated community to flee higher-cost, more congested areas in California, Illinois, New York and an array of other states. The developers hosted more than 1,800 site tours over the past year and property sales in Jasper Highlands so far this year are more than double last year's pace.

"It's been the hottest 12-month period we've ever had," said Bradshaw, the president of Thunder Enterprises.

More than 1,100 lots have been sold at Jasper Highlands, collectively worth more than $130 million in property sales.

Only about 80 houses are now occupied atop Jasper Mountain, but another 80 houses are under construction and the population of the mountaintop community continues to grow.

"Everyone here is sort of a pioneer coming from 47 different states and six countries and they have quickly build a real sense of community here along with all of the amenities of a mountaintop lifestyle," Bradshaw said. "Since the pandemic hit, a lot more people who were thinking about buying have opted to make their purchase and more people with lots have gone ahead and started building their homes."

Social distancing is a bit easier on Jasper Mountain with the average residential lot in the gated community of nearly 1.5 acres in size. Jasper Highlands also includes hundreds of miles of trails through the more than 3,000 acres of undeveloped and protected land around the residential lots, Bradshaw said.

But one of the most popular parts of Jasper Highlands is a gathering place at the entrance of the development, the Top of the Rock restaurant and microbrewery. Built on a clifftop overlooking the Tennessee River, both residents and visitors who come to the restaurant enjoy a view for miles of the Sequatchie Valley.

The restaurant, which is operated by Chattanooga's Square One, opened in October 2019 and has proven a popular lunch and dinner destination, along with its Sunday brunches, for many visitors who travel to the top of the mountain to enjoy the food and the view. Developers had to add extra parking to accommodate the restaurant's appeal.

"We have people coming here from Nashville, Birmingham and all over as word has gotten out about our great view and the phenomenal view we offer," said Beal Smith, general manager of the Top of the Rock.

The restaurant is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and stays open an extra hour to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, Top of the Rock offers a brunch menu from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and its regular dinner menu form 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. The restaurant, along with a wellness center and general store, is located just outside the main gated entry to Jasper Highlands.

Bradshaw said the restaurant has exceeded expectations in its first 18 months of operation and is appealing to both the residents in Jasper Highlands and those willing to drive up the mountain to sample its menu and enjoy the view.

"We're bringing back the Sunday drive," Bradshaw said, noting that the Sunday brunches often have a waiting line.

Diners are so enthused about the outdoor patio overlook from the mountaintop setting that they often wait much longer for a table rather than sit in the indoor portion of the restaurant, Smith said. To accommodate the appeal of the outdoor overlook, Top of the Rock is adding a lower deck with another 136 seats, plus a 25-seat bar, to accommodate the demand for those wanting the view of the Tennessee River valley below along with their meal or drink.

As Jasper Highlands expands and sells more lots, developers are also adding a second swimming pool in the complex, which is scheduled to open this summer. Road crews also continue to add to the 25 miles of paved roads already in the sprawling complex that has been developed in five phases since the first property was sold in 2012.

Bradshaw said he expects about 300 more lots will be created in Jasper Highlands for sale over the next couple of years.

"Jasper Highlands offers to both residents and visitors what many individuals and families are looking for: a connection to the outdoors and a spacious mountain experience," Bradshaw said. "We're actually ahead of our schedule for sales at this point and we continue to see strong interest from buyers all over the country wanting the appeal of Tennessee mountain living."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

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