WINNEBAGO, Neb. | Janice Jessen will tell you Ho-Chunk Village is a living, breathing thing.
"They broke ground in 2003 and they keep adding to it as the plans called for that then,” said Jessen, marketing director for Blue Earth Marketing, a subsidiary of Ho-Chunk, the economic development division of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.
Last year, Ho-chunk celebrated the village’s 10th anniversary. Ho-Chunk Village is a 40-acre mixed-use commercial, industrial, residential and master plan development in Winnebago.
Several private family homes were added to the housing development last year. Two of them are split-foyer houses with two or three bedrooms, Jessen said.
“They’re very nice, brand new homes that were constructed by Ho-Chunk Inc.-owned Dynamic Homes, a modular housing manufacturer that is located in Detroit Lakes, Minn.,” she said. “They build a higher-end modular home, the homes that are being put into the village, and so they have double garages and patios and two or three bedrooms each and a nice lot. It’s really building up the neighborhood there. More people are being able to purchase a home.”
More homes were built elsewhere on the reservation last year. Construction need not be limited to Ho-Chunk Village, she noted.
“We also added another three senior housing units in 2013. Those are small condos or somewhat apartment-style homes for the senior citizens. There were three units added in 2012. And I believe those are all filled,” she said.
Jessen noted that Little Priest Tribal College, the Winnebago Tribe’s community college, built a classroom building in the village for residents to have additional access to college courses. It was finished last year.
Some additional commercial buildings will be built in Ho-Chunk Village. There are plans for a building that will provide commercial office space on the main floor with living units on the second floor. The intent is for the commercial space to be used to house some information technology businesses, she said.
“They have a community park in the village right now, and they’re adding facilities to that, some shelters, picnic tables and other kinds of equipment for the kids,” Jessen said.
The housing construction is still in phase one of a two-phase planned development. There are lots of spaces available for this first phase, but eventually more land is going to have to be purchased.
“The housing demand continues to grow every year. So there will be additional land that we’ll have to purchase at some point,” she said.
The project is a master-planned community, with input from tribal members and leaders as well as national architectural firms and designers, as it was laid out 11 years ago.
“It’s actually being built very close to what the original plans were,” Jessen said. “It’s definitely on track to continue to grow. I know they’re concerned because the demand for housing is increasing every year, and now tribal members have the ability to actually buy their own homes. So it’s an exciting time.”
The creation of the mixed-use development grew out of the lack of housing on the reservation. A partnership led to the creation of a town center of private homes, multifamily housing, commercial and industrial businesses, a community park and retail shopping.
Ho-Chunk’s continued growth, thanks in part to more work for the federal government in various parts of the country and overseas, is providing the funds that fuel this community development on the reservation, she said.
More work is being done to renovate the Ho-Chunk Centre in downtown Sioux City, as well as property in Nebraska and Washington, D.C.
“We’re going to add between 300 and 500 new employees (nationally) within the next few months,” Jessen said.
Ho-chunk Inc. is the award-winning economic development corporation owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. The company began in 1994 with only one employee and has since grown to 1,000 employees. Its long-term mission is to provide the tribe with a large enough income stream from its business operations to enable the tribe to reach economic self-sufficiency.