Construction of a fueling facility and a large convenience store is a first step the Lummi Nation hopes will lead to big things for 160 acres of property near Interstate 5 and Slater Road.
Ground was broken on the project Tuesday, to build what is being called a travel center that will have truck stop amenities and provide fuel for vehicles going up and down I-5. There’s also going to be a 10,000-square-foot store, with the center employing about 15 people, said Lummi Nation Chairman Tim Ballew II. IMCO Construction and Lummi Nation Construction will be among those working on the project.
Construction of the travel center is expected to be completed sometime next spring, said Richard Jefferson, CEO of Lummi Commercial Company. The property is on both the east and west sides of Rural Avenue, near the Slater Road intersection. The travel center will be on the west side of Rural Avenue.
Lummi leaders are calling it a crucial step in the development of Salish Village, a project that has the potential for being a major economic and entertainment hub for Whatcom County. The hope is the completion of the first phase will lead to interest from investors to put in a variety of other projects. Ideas include an indoor water park, a hotel to complement the nearby Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa, retail and offices.
“We want to bring in entertainment that doesn’t currently exist in Whatcom County,” Jefferson said.
Ideas centered on retail development when the Lummi Nation received federal approval to put an additional 84 acres into trust land status in in 2015, for a total of around 160 in the area.
While retail remains a potentially important component, there is more thought being given to entertainment projects, given the changing landscape of physical stores and the rise of online shopping.
Ballew said the Lummi community wants the travel center to be a legacy statement, reflecting the values and feel of the area. That will be kept in mind during the design of the facility, he added.
Part of the reason the Lummi Nation is moving forward with Salish Village is the success from Silver Reef, Ballew said.
Despite a weak Canadian dollar, the hotel, casino and spa sales have been steady and exceeding projections, said Celina Phair, treasurer of the Lummi Business Council.
“We’ve been able to do more outreach to our local community,” Phair said.