Creating a destination in North County

This spring, the new nearly 300 room hotel, located on the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s land on the west side of the Exit 16 junction will open. The Cowlitz Indian Tribe opened ilani, the Tribe’s casino, meeting, dining and entertainment complex, in 2017. While ilani has 1,500 employees, the new hotel will mean 200 additional jobs.

The almost 5,000-member Cowlitz Indian Tribe gained federal recognition in 2000 and subsequently, in several steps, took ownership of the almost 200 acres of land it now owns. The Cowlitz Tribe property also features a fueling station, named Cowlitz Crossing, which touts the Chevron brand, directly across the overpass from TCG’s Shell station at Exit 16.

It’s thanks to the Tribe’s efforts to develop its land that a lot of the infrastructure facilitating additional development came to be. “The Tribe invested in infrastructure around the interchange prior to opening ilani in 2017, to support 20 years of economic development and growth,” commented ilani General Manager Kara Fox-LaRose. “We’re excited about more development.”

Kast said the infrastructure now in place, thanks to the Tribe, includes a sewage connection to a facility near downtown La Center. “The Tribe has been a good partner,” he said.

“The Tribe invested millions of dollars in the area’s infrastructure, in cooperation with the local government and Washington State Department of Transportation,” said Kent Caputo, the Tribe’s senior advisor. “That was of critical value to making this all work.”

Caputo described the interchange area as “a gateway,” with its combination of investments. “From I-5, people can either go left to the Tribe’s reservation and ilani, or right to LaCenter and all that’s going on there.”

Fox-LaRose said representatives of ilani serve alongside business leaders on community boards, with a shared interest in local safety and prosperity. “The Tribe remains focused on sustainability and best use of land and drawing more interest and visitation to north Clark County,” she said. She noted that the Tribe’s business activities have enabled it to put money into wider city priorities such as education and public safety.

As for any new developments the Tribe has in mind, Caputo said: “You can anticipate that the Tribe has development plans, not only on the west side of the I-5 but also on the east side. At a high level, the Tribe has a broad range of plans.”

Caputo said the Tribe has worked hard on communicating its local sense of commitment to its neighbors here, adding: “that doesn’t just mean the mayor, but, literally, the property owners neighboring our land.”

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