HOLLYWOOD — Tomie Motlow longed to own a home on the Hollywood Reservation, but there were no available houses. She put her name on a waiting list and dreamed. It was a very long wait.
Now, more than 23 years later, the Seminole Tribe member and mother of two is making plans to move into what will be the first new major housing development built there since the 1990s.
Lennar Homes has begun construction of 103 rental townhomes and 74 single-family homes. The estimated completion date is sometime in 2021.
The development is called “Seminole Park.” “It’s hard to make it seem real because I have been waiting so long,” Motlow said. “It’s hard to fathom until I know my foundation is in the ground and the walls are coming up.”
The development is located in an area of the reservation that previously was home to the Seminole Park mobile home site, whose residences were available to the public. Those homes have been demolished.
The new development is for Seminoles. It will include a combination of three-, four-and five-bedroom single-family homes, half of them one-story and half two-stories. Most of the townhomes will be three bedrooms, but 28 will feature four bedrooms.
The development is spread across a 44-acre stretch on the east side of State Road 7. It is close to the Trading Post, Seminole Police Department, Seminole Fire Rescue, Seminole Gaming warehouses, Seminole Wholesale Distributors and Oaklee Village.
“It shows how far we’ve come and it just gives everybody an idea of how we want to do things moving forward,” Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola said about the project. “There hasn’t been any significant growth on this reservation since the ‘90s. This is the first housing development we’ve seen.”
Motlow said she received a phone call in 2019 asking if she was still interested in a home on the reservation.
She currently owns a house off reservation where she raised her daughter, now 23. But her 13-year-old son, who spends much of his free time at the Boys & Girls Club on the reservation, still has a chance to grow up closer to his cultural roots. It was an opportunity she could not forego.
Motlow was born and raised on the Hollywood Reservation, spent four years on the Brighton Reservation and then moved back to Hollywood. She could have lived in a rental there but she wanted to own. Soon she’ll be moving back.
“It feels like it’s not going to happen. I’m used to not having the opportunity to finally live on the reservation,” she added. “I work here every day, but I don’t go home to it every day. I’m excited.”
Tribal member Blake Osceola figures he has been on the waiting list about 15 years, putting his name there years before he was a parent raising his own kids. Now, for the father of an 11-year-old boy and a 12-yearold girl, owning a home on the reservation is more important than ever.
“You heard a lot of talk about it from the Council for the past 10 years, but it seemed like it would never happen,” he said. “To me, now is the time. My dad lives here on the reservation. All my aunts and uncles live on the reservation. I grew up with a lot of friends on the reservation and it will give my kids a chance to do the same. I’m excited it’s finally happening.”
Councilman Osceola said the project took time to plan out, but watching homes rise for Tribal members in the shadow of the landmark Guitar Hotel is nothing short of amazing.
“It took a long time to get all the pieces together,” Councilman Osceola said. “We had to have the right stuff in place.”
Derek Koger, executive director of Tribal Community Development, said the housing development project is momentous for the Seminole community.
It’s also already sold out.
“You have people who live on the reservation now but this is the first time you have bulk of this amount of lots that are being opened up in the community,” Koger said. “We sold out in three or four weeks. It’s an historic initiative.”
Homes will feature metal roofs, hurricane impact windows, ceramic tile, granite countertops, high-efficiency air conditioning, garages and a playground area with pavilions and restroom facilities, he said.