BIG CYPRESS — Tribal Council and Board members joined members of the Big Cypress community April 11 for the long-awaited groundbreaking of the Mabel T. Frank residential project, the first large development on the reservation.
The 71-acre community will be comprised of 33 rental homes on quarter-acre lots and 17 1.5 acre home sites. Each of the two neighborhoods will have its own entrance off Josie Billie Highway across from the old bingo hall.
The development is named for Mabel T. Frank since it will be built on the site of her former cattle pasture. Her great-grandson Sunny Frank remembers playing in those pastures as a young child.
“I remember riding on horses and watching the cowboys,” Frank said. “It brings back a lot of good memories.”
Former cattle foreman Jonah Cypress remembers the pasture well.
“It was Mabel and her husband Sam Frank’s,” he said. “I worked her cows. Even Mondo [Tiger] was there to help us chase those cows.”
Like other reservations, BC has a housing shortage. This will help to alleviate it by allowing 50 families to relocate.
“It only took 20 years, but we’re here,” said Big Cypress Councilman Mondo Tiger. “We have a dire need for housing on this reservation.”
BC Board Rep. Joe Frank concurred.
“The Tribe is suffering from growing pains,” Rep. Frank said. “It’s definitely needed and I commend Council for prioritizing this. A lot of young people are coming up and will need housing over the next 15 years or so.”
Infrastructure construction will start first on the rental home sites. Once the pads are ready, homes will be built.
“It will take about a year to get the infrastructure finished,” said Tribal Community Development Director of Operations Derrick Smith. “I’d like to complete the first homes by the time the infrastructure is completed. We try to work efficiently.”
BC set aside about 900 acres for development that could include residential, commercial, health and education. The Tribe has a list of approximately 400 Tribal members waiting for homes on reservations.
“We want them to be able to come back home,” said Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. “This site has room for plenty of development over the next 30 years.”
A video of what the Mabel T. Frank community will look like was shown on large screens during the ceremony.
“We had a plan for the community and it’s happening now,” said President Mitchell Cypress. “It’s good to be able to take care of some people on the list.”
Tribal Community Development Executive Director Derek Koger oversees this and other projects tribalwide.
“We need homes across the board,” said Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola. “I commend Derek Koger; we are going to keep him busy for a while.”