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YELM, WA-An ambitious $25 to $30 million retail development, the largest ever embarked on in this rural town 15 miles east of Olympia, is setting the stage for what local officials hope will be a commercial development boom.

Being constructed by Yelm Prairie Development Co. on property it owns at 701 Prairie Park Lane, the project will provide the 3,000-person town with an eight-screen cinema, a restaurant, retail outlets, office space, a library branch, a 48-room hotel expansion, and a fitness and conference center, if all goes as planned. The cinema, the first phase of the project, is expected to open its doors December 15, with the remaining construction slated for completion in two to three years.

“We did a market study on everything we are doing and know that everything we are planning for is needed,” says John Thompson, a spokesperson for Yelm Prairie Development Co. “Yelm is the fastest growing city in Thurston County and has been for a decade. And even though it’s small population wise, there are a lot of people in the outlying areas so it has become a big service area.”

Shelly Badger, city administrator for Yelm, says the city is already benefiting from planning and development fees that have been collected as a result of the complex. The city also will get a much-needed economic boost through the jobs its creates and the tax revenue it generates, Badger says.

Possibly even more important, she believes, is that the development will help convince other businesses and commercial developers that setting up shop in Yelm makes good business sense. “By making the decision to move forward on this very large project, the developers show they believe we have the ability to draw from a much larger area for commercial activities,” says Badger. “Even though we are small, we are becoming the commercial hub for the rural areas and we draw from a large base outside the city. I think this development will show other commercial businesses that there is opportunity here in Yelm and help bring them here.”

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