LEAD HILL, Ark. — The shareholders of the Ozark Medieval Fortress, an educational tourist attraction that opened to the public in May 2010, agreed to seek a buyer for the property at their most recent board meeting.
According to Michel Guyot, chairman of OMF LLC, the initial price tag has been set at $500,000. He said in an email that the decision to sell was based on “financial reasons” and added that the castle has been officially listed by real estate agencies.
“We hope to find a buyer soon,” Guyot wrote. “If so, the buyer would have the opportunity to open the site for the 2012 season.”
Guyot said he still gets regular inquiries about the project from tourists and potential volunteers via its website, ozarkmedievalfortress.com.
Another investor, Jean-Marc Mirat, said he and his colleagues are also “investigating a partnership with an American who could continue what we started.”
Ozark Medieval Fortress was founded by a group of primarily French investors, some of whom had been involved with a similar Guyot project in France called Guédelon, which began in 1997 and is expected to be completed in the 2020s.
The Arkansas castle was projected to be finished in 2030. Billed as “a castle in the making,” the fortress was being built using only the materials and techniques of the 13th century. Located east of Omaha, Ark., the project attracted national media attention after it was announced in 2009.
Along with the construction, other aspects of life in the Dark Ages were showcased — from pottery and livestock care to weaponry and warfare.
The news that the fortress would be closed in 2012 due to financial troubles surfaced in late January. But, according to Catherine Koehler, a former employee who has maintained a close interest in the project, a number of investors were still “on the fence” as to whether to sell until the recent meeting.
While noting the asking price for the high-profile property, Koehler said appraisers had put its value even lower.
“Right now, it’s just an unfinished castle,” Koehler said.
Koehler said ticket sales at the attraction were inconsistent during the two seasons it was open and never met the hopes of the project’s investors. Still, she said she sees potential in the property and has started identifying organizations and institutions that might be interested in acquiring it.
“I’m so afraid it’s going to be turned into a (theme park),” Koehler said. “What most of us would like to see is it being run as a historical venue, with maybe some profit-oriented ventures around the exterior. We know it has to be self-sustaining.”
The Ozark Medieval Fortress closed in mid-November and would have began its season in April if it had reopened this year.