WINNEBAGO, Neb. – As Winnebago’s Ho-Chunk Village nears capacity, a new version of the development that has transformed the north side of the city has been launched.
Aptly named Ho-Chunk Village 2.0, the 40-acre development will contain the same mix of residential, commercial and light industrial buildings found in the previous version, which is adjacent to the south.
The estimated $50 million development is expected to contain nearly 200 housing units, with plans for 120 apartments, 32 townhouses, 10 retirement homes and 35 single-family homes.
“Ho-Chunk Village 2.0 is going to move twice as fast as the first, I think,” said Lance Morgan, CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., a development company owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and developer of the project.
The first Ho-Chunk Village opened in the early 2000s and its 40 acres are almost full. Development east of U.S. Highways 75/77 on the north side of Winnebago added 115 units — 51 single-family homes, including townhouses, duplexes and 10 seniors’ housing, and 64 multi-family dwellings in apartments and condominiums. The development also includes a Dollar General store and other small businesses and light industries.
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As Ho-Chunk officials watched the development fill up, they began funding and planning for the next development, known as Ho-Chunk Village 2.0, four years ago. The new development will include at least two apartment buildings, some mixed-use buildings with commercial space on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors and possibly two light industrial buildings, said Dennis Johnson, chief investment officer. by Ho-Chunk Inc.
“Ultimately the needs of the community will dictate that,” he said.
Most underground utilities have been installed and some streets are paved. Ho-Chunk plans another $4 million investment this year to pave streets and sidewalks, install lighting and plant hundreds of trees.
The construction of 10 units for seniors is planned for this year, in addition to five duplexes, six houses and perhaps one of the largest buildings. The Boys and Girls Club of Winnebago is also considering building a new facility there.
“We’re very excited to be accelerating this,” Johnson said of all the planned builds. “It is absolutely necessary to improve the living conditions of many segments in Winnebago.”
Five homes are already under construction, including one owned by Belle Bearskin, who currently lives in rental accommodation with her fiancé Marcel Blackbird and their six children. With few homes available in Winnebago and little land available to build on, Ho-Chunk 2.0 has given the couple the opportunity to own their first home, which is expected to be completed in June.
“It’s just a better quality of life to have more space for our kids to grow, their own bedrooms, and more bathrooms,” Bearskin said. “My kids are so excited. I’m already packing.”
Housing availability is a concern in this growing community, with as many as 200 households on the waiting list for tribal-owned housing.
“Having stable housing shouldn’t be so difficult on the reservation, but it is,” said Victoria Kitcheyan, chairwoman of the Winnebago Tribal Council. “We need housing opportunities for everyone.”
Ho-Chunk 2.0 will greatly increase the number of houses available. As residents move into these new homes and apartments, it will open up current homes in the city, allowing others to come off the waiting lists.
Smaller developments on the south side of Winnebago will also add more housing to the community.
It is very necessary. A high birth rate and the return of tribal members for jobs has led to a 30% growth in Winnebago’s population to 2,000 people in the past seven years, Morgan said. He expects to see the population continue to climb as more than 5,500 tribesmen return home. The tribe’s median age of 18 means many more babies are likely on the way in the coming years.
Any construction will help alleviate the housing shortage in Winnebago, Morgan said, but will not eliminate it.
“All he’s going to do is take a bite of it,” he said.
That’s why preliminary plans are in the works for the development of an additional 80 acres adjacent to the village of Ho-Chunk in five years, Morgan said.