Raul Escobar, who has lived nearby off the reservation with his family for 16 years, signed his lease during the grand opening event and moved in the same afternoon with his wife and children.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to live here,” the 34-year-old Tribal member said. “I had to wait until I had white hairs to live here. I’m happy to be on the reservation; it means a lot to us to come back. There is a lot to do here. It will have a big impact on my family.”
The 1,800- to 1,900-square-foot rental townhomes have three bedrooms, two or two-and-a-half bathrooms, tile flooring, granite countertops, window treatments and plenty of storage. Two buildings house six two-story units, and one building has two one-story Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant units. Similar townhomes were built in Big Cypress, Brighton and Hollywood with the intention of giving Tribe members who cannot secure mortgage financing access to the amenities of reservation living.
Seminole/Stiles designed and built the Immokalee townhomes.
“I’m happy we’re growing and expanding; it’s been a long time coming,” Council project manager Raynaldo Yzaguirre III said. “It’s time for a new beginning.”
About 50 people attended the grand opening and toured the townhomes, including Immokalee Board Liaison Dorothy Scheffler, President Mitchell Cypress, Big Cypress Board Rep. Joe Frank, Big Cypress Councilman Cicero Osceola, Hollywood Board Rep. Steve Osceola and Council Liaison event coordinator Johnny Boone.
Adam Nelson, director of the Tribal Community Development Department, said that after they secured the funding, departments worked together to complete the project. Construction began in June 2014, but Councilman Osceola said the idea hatched eight years ago.
“These townhouses were in the pipeline for a long time,” Rep. Frank said. “I’m glad the Board and Council worked together to get them off the paper and in the ground completed. Immokalee is in need of more housing, and we can help alleviate the problem here.”
About 200 people call Immokalee home, but the reservation is growing. Next, the Tribe will tackle the development of seven single-family homes on Alice Jimmie Circle. Infrastructure is underway and construction should commence by November.
“This is a proud moment for this side of the reservation,” Liaison Scheffler said. “We lived in chickees here; it’s nice to see people move back to the reservation after being off for so long.”