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Little River Band Building Big Housing Development

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians has broken ground for an ambitious housing development project that would include 300 houses.
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The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians has broken ground for an ambitious housing development that would rank as one of the biggest American Indian projects ever undertaken.

The tribe plans for the housing development in Fruitport Township, Michigan include 300 homes. Construction should start on the first phase of the project in late April or in May. That would see 115 houses rise on land the tribe bought from the Fruitport community school district in 2016.

Homebuyers will not need to be tribal members to purchase a house in the project, described as “a collaborative economic development investment” in the Fruitport community.


The 120-acre housing development is near a site for a proposed tribal casino, but the tribe has not yet gotten the go-ahead to build that facility.

Housing development costs were not revealed, but were reported in media outlets as being between $70-$170 million. A tribal spokesman said the project would be developed by tribal investment funds. The tribe is looking at finance options for units which would be built after a customer signs a purchase agreement. Individual units will cost between $150,000 and $300,000. The tribe is working with Dirk Stone Real Estate on the deal.

“We have just settled on the builder and have not yet started taking formal requests to gauge the specific interest from tribal members,” said the spokeman. “However the initial interest from Realtors, potential homeowners and tribal members has been promising.”

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The builder on the project will be local builder Ron Stoup, whose company is called Timber Run LLC.

The project will be called Odeno, which means “place of many hearts” in the Anisinaabe language. The tribe said it followed principles of “harmony, beauty, fulfillment and connection to the earth” in its design.

More than 30 of the 120 acres will remain open ground devoted to parks, gazebos and walking trails. A local waterway, Stevens Creek, has been incorporated into the design. Energy-efficient designs have been employed.

The groundbreaking on March 27 at the site, south of the corner of Mt. Garfield and South Sheridan in Fruitport Township, featured both tribal Ogema Larry Romanelli and township supervisor Heide Tice.

“Our goal was to work with the local community to develop a unique village that offers homes of different sizes and amenities for first time home buyers, retirees and growing families in the area,” said Romanelli.

If successfully completed, this project will be in the league of giant Indian housing developments built by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the White Mountain Apache in Arizona.

Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, said construction has started recently on another 11 homes in Vinita, Oklahoma. The tribe has built more than 500 homes and has another 300 in some phase of development in their tribal jurisdiction in northeast Oklahoma, he said. The three-bedroom homes with garages should be finished this year, he said.

The White Mountain Apache planned for 250 homes to be built in an unusual financing structure that included a $25 million mortgage bond. Ten separate financial institutions were involved in the financing for the tribe, based in the Fort Apache reservation in east-central Arizona.