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Big Cypress celebrates Mabel T. Frank residential community groundbreaking

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.

Tribal officials, Tribal members and other dignitaries turn the dirt April 11 at the groundbreaking for the largest residential development in Big Cypress. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

“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.”

The Mabel T. Frank neighborhood will be easy to find on the Josie Billie Highway. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

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.”

The stage is set for the groundbreaking ceremony for the Mabel T. Frank project just on the other side of the Josie Billie Highway in Big Cypress. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
A rendering of the Mabel T. Frank community’s rental homes is shown during the groundbreaking ceremony in Big Cypress on April 11. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Tribal officials attend the festivities in the tent at the Mabel T. Frank groundbreaking. From left are Council Executive Assistant Thomasine Motlow, Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola, President Mitchell Cypress, Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. and Tribal Community Development Executive Director Derek Koger. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at

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