TULALIP — The ceremony to launch construction of a major new outlet mall off I-5 Thursday was quite a bit different from the usual groundbreaking.
There were lots of speeches, gold-colored shovels and a pile of dirt.
But there was also warm sunshine, a tribal ceremonial blessing and some more ideas about the next projects planned by the Tulalip Tribes. Those are likely to include:
"We want to move customers without having to put them into a car," said Les Parks, chairman of the tribal business committee.
Parks, who called the groundbreaking "an exciting day for Tulalip, its members and its future members," noted that the casino expects to attract about 6.5 million visitors a year and the outlet mall will bring in another 6 million.
He said the Tulalips want people to view the tribes’ business and casino development as a 460-acre mall from I-5 to 27th Avenue NE and from 88th Street NE to 116th Street NE.
"This isn’t going to be just another Alderwood Mall or a shopping trip," he said. "It’s an experience…. You come, you shop, you mingle."
Linking the new mall and casino will be a central plaza of four to six acres to provide space for that mingling, as well as an entertainment venue and a place where people can experience the tribes’ culture, Parks said.
"We hope to have totem poles lining the street, maybe carvers working on-site," he said. "It would be a place for people to view and read about the Tulalips’ history.
Within the year, the Tulalips plan to begin work on the 200,000-square-foot mall between Home Depot and 99th Avenue NE, Parks said. It will be home to half a dozen midsized tenants, stores with 20,000 to 30,000 square feet, a couple of restaurants and possibly some cultural or craft stores.
The new mall, called Seattle Premium Outlets, is expected to have more than 100 stores and be open to shoppers in spring 2005. The one-story shopping area will have 444,000 square feet of retail space in a circular promenade that opens up with six courtyards.
John Klein, senior vice president of the developer, Chelsea Property Group, said the project will provide some 800 permanent jobs and 300 construction positions.
"Our goal is to have the best outlet center in the Northwest," he said. "The market will reach beyond the metropolitan area and will encompass the Pacific Rim."
Chelsea owns 28 percent of the high-end retail market in the United States, according to the tribes’ chairman, Herman Williams. He noted that Chelsea has outlet malls in 31 states, as well as in Japan and elsewhere on the Pacific Rim.
"We think that will bring a lot of good business," Klein said. "Our next phase will be a hotel so we can keep them in our casinos for three days, not a few hours."
Williams noted that the tribe’s business development "has been the economic engine for Snohomish County for quite some time" and shows no sign of letting up. "We have so many other things to do," he said.
Tribal board member Mel Sheldon referred to the area as the tribes’ "economic canoe," noting that canoes long were used by tribal ancestors to gather food and promote trade.
"It’s a very big economic canoe, and it holds a lot of people here," he said.
Patty Gobin introduced the tribes’ salmon ceremony, which included two blessing songs intended to "stand at attention and look down on our lives to see if we’re doing the right thing."
Earlier, board member Maria Zackuse noted that former tribal elders had placed the business park land aside "so that one day our leaders would do something for our people.
"And here it is," she said.