Ground was broken Friday on a multimillion-dollar development on the site of the first urban reserve in Brandon, Man.
Officials with Gambler First Nation and the City of Brandon, as well as the provincial and federal governments, held a ceremony at the site of Gambler’s 3.5-hectare property on Brandon’s north hill Friday afternoon.
“What this means is security for our youth,” Gambler Chief David LeDoux said afterwards. “We’re in the process of building seven generations of wealth … and we’re well on our way to doing that.”
Gambler First Nation approached the City of Brandon in 2016 regarding the purchase of privately owned land in the southwestern Manitoba city, according to Brandon’s website, and began the process with the federal government of granting the land reserve status.
Brandon and Gambler First Nation — 132 kilometres northwest of Brandon — signed a municipal development and service agreement in March 2018, further opening the door to the development.
The First Nation’s main reserve, near the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border, is one of Canada’s smallest Indigenous communities, spanning just over five square kilometres. It has a population of around 400 people, according to figures supplied by Gambler First Nation.
LeDoux hopes construction on the first phase of the urban reserve development will begin in the next month. It will see a gas station, gaming centre and a pair of retail units built on the front of the property, along 18th Street.
It’s expected to employ between 20 and 30 people, according to LeDoux.
Conceptual drawings of the proposed development also show a hotel, offices and more retail units.
LeDoux estimated the total cost of the project at around $50 million. He hasn’t said how it will be funded, but hopes to bring other communities on board.
“We’ve got unique ways of doing business.… Hopefully we can get some other First Nations investing here as well,” he said.
“It’s a start of a better way to do business with First Nations.”
Drawing people to Brandon
He said discussions between his community and the City of Brandon went smoothly from the beginning and gave him confidence the deal was going to work out.
Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest echoed that sentiment.
“I think he and I really think the same. We’re really interested in better opportunities for all of our people and all of our communities and working together,” Chrest said.
“We were really in lockstep though the whole process and we continued that way to this day.”
Chrest hopes the new development’s proximity to the Trans-Canada Highway will help draw people in.
“The more that we get services and commercial activity pushed out the Trans-Canada Highway really just helps the whole city,” said Chrest.
LeDoux hopes the gas station and gaming centre can open this fall on the site.
“That treeline seems to get be getting farther and farther away, which I think is able to let us dream of what we’re going to put on here,” he said, pointing toward the back of the property.