by Lisa Tome
A manmade lake is coming to the interstate highway.
The lake, which will be in the area of I-95 mile marker 96.5, between North East and Perryville, is part of the now under construction Chesapeake House Travel Plaza. Work started early this year on the new 30,000 square foot building which will be approximately three times the size of the current plaza.
"It's going to be spectacular. This is going to become a destination for sure," said Carlos de Jesus, Director of Operations for Areas, operator of the Chesapeake House, North East.
"What we are in now is a 40-year-old building. The new plaza will be sparkling like a diamond."
He explained that all the partners in the construction project are Maryland- based - the architect, construction company, and those who will furnish the building all are headquartered in the state. There has also been an emphasis on including minority partners in the project.
The lake will be part of the draw, explained de Jesus, it will feature outdoor seating and an area where people can stretch, exercise and take a break from traveling. Inside the building, the ceiling will be constructed with the Chesapeake Bay in mind. It has been designed to resemble a wood bottomed vessel.
When the plaza reopens in July or August of 2014, it will employ 210-240 people, some with disabilities in cooperation with Bayside Community Network and Perry Point VA Medical Center. The Chesapeake House also hires area high school and college students.
"You have to run a business as a family. If you run it that way, people will feel the fairness and the love. They will look forward to coming to work," said de Jesus.
"This is a business and we are here as a corporation. We want to make an impact in the community. We are here to make a difference. We want to train, teach, and motivate people."
Dolores Reil, 75, of Perryville, has worked at the Chesapeake House for nearly 30 years.
"I love the rotation and learning a lot of different stores. I guess I'll die here. I've seen a lot of amazing things here. And working here, you feel good helping people."
De Jesus said there is no way of knowing how many people stop at the Chesapeake House. Estimates project that 60,000 people per month, more than 1.2 million per year, stop in at the plaza.
The new plaza will feature Wendy's, KFC, Pizza Hut, Earl of Sandwich, Auntie Anne's, Caribou-owned Peet's Coffee, Brookstone, Orange Optics, BU Turner, and a Marketplace gift shop.