ELK GROVE (CBS13) — A local Native American tribe is excited to see walls coming down so they can build them back up. Their new development at the site of a forgotten mall will be an economic driver for their tribe and the region.
Tonya Caldwell is on the Wilton Rancheria Tribal Council. Ever since their tribal status was terminated in 1958, they have been fighting to regain their land and their status. In 2009 they re-gained their federal recognition, and on Friday they took a step toward their future.
"Tearing down these buildings is a symbol of that new beginning and removing a visual obstacle on that road to self-sufficiency," said Raymond Hitchcock, a tribal chairman.
The ghost mall along Highway 99 in Elk Grove is being demolished to make way for a resort and casino run by the Wilton Rancheria tribe. The structures were originally part of a planned high-end retail mall by General Growth Properties, which went bankrupt in 2007.
The Howard Hughes Corporation snatched up the property, proposing an outlet mall. But construction never began and it's become an eyesore.
In 2017, the Howard Hughes Corporation sold off 36 of the 99 acres to the Wilton Rancheria tribe. The tribe is paying for demolition on their side, and the Howard Hughes Corporation will tear down buildings on the remaining 63 acres. There is no word on whether the company will develop or sell their remaining property.
"My interest is to see a synergy with Wilton Rancheria and whatever is south of here. It needs to be consistent with and support one another," said Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly.
The resort and casino project is expected to bring thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in revenue for not only for the community but the Wilton Rancheria tribe and it's 800 members.
"That would give us the ability to purchase other lands and do housing projects and bring health care and educational opportunities," said Hitchcock.
Tonya Powell agreed.
"It's going to change our tribal members' futures," Powell said.
The casino resort is expected to cost $500 million and be finished by late 2020.
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