A unique 110-unit affordable housing community that provides housing for Native Americans and includes the Red Lake Nation Embassy and a health care clinic becomes an integral part of Minneapolis’ Native American Cultural Corridor.
Mino-bimaadiziwin, which means “living the good life” in Ojibwe, provides housing for members of the Red Lake Ojibwe Band and other local Native American residents, as well as much-needed services for the tribe’s urban population. It is one of the first housing projects developed by a tribal government in a major city, according to Sam Olbekson, founder and CEO of Full Circle Indigenous Planning + Design and consultant to Cuningham, the design firm that worked on the project.
“The Red Lake Ojibwe Band has identified a strong need for culturally appropriate supportive housing for members of their community living outside of the tribe’s reservation in northern Minnesota,” Olbekson says. “In addition to the affordable housing units, the development’s Red Lake Nation Embassy and Health Care Clinic will create a convenient hub for residents to receive the services, resources and care they need.
Landon Group is the development partner and CommonBond Communities is the property manager.
The nearly $42 million development used multiple sources of funding, including tax-exempt bonds, low-income housing tax credits, and tax increment funding. Funding partners include the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Huntington Bank, Raymond James Affordable Housing Investments, Metropolitan Council, and Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines.
“We have seen widespread support for Mino-bimaadiziwin from a range of local stakeholders who strongly believe that this permanent housing solution, along with convenient access to community resources and physical and mental health services, will create a strong foundation on which residents will thrive,” says Jeff Schoeneck, Principal and Executive Director of Cuningham Live Studio. The project was built on a site that previously served as a temporary navigation center for unsheltered residents in response to an encampment of more than 300 people called the Wall of Forgotten Natives.
The accommodation opened last year and the health clinic is expected to open soon.
The apartments and community center simultaneously respond to contemporary tribal life while honoring and communicating tradition, which is reflected and facilitated by its design. The Cuningham team worked closely with members of the Red Lake Ojibwe community and other stakeholders to ensure the design was firmly rooted and aligned with enhancing and enhancing the experience of residents and of the overall mission of the project.
“Beyond simple housing and services, Mino-bimaadiziwin serves a deeper purpose of connecting, teaching and passing on cultural knowledge that is deeply important to tribal cultures,” says Olbekson. “In turn, this will enrich the lives of residents by giving them a sense of belonging and pride. To achieve this, we designed a strategic and modern design with the subtle inclusion of elements revealing history and traditions.
Specific design elements incorporating and celebrating tribal culture include:
· A garden of four raised beds adjoins the clinic, which is built around the traditional shape of an Ojibwa medicine garden;
· Ceiling and wall treatment throughout the building includes locally sourced cedar, a tree sacred to the Ojibway;
· The tribe’s traditional dances and brightly colored, patterned clothing are reflected in wall graphics at key locations throughout the property;
· Light fixtures and woven textured elements in the lobby of the accommodations reflect traditional basket weaving; and
· The coloring of the Gathering Circle is a graphic representation of the Ojibwe Medicine Wheel.
Different “zones” of ownership represent the seven clans of the Red Lake Nation: Kingfisher (Internal Domestic Communications) is the housing portion of the building; Bald Eagle (Outgoing International Communications) is the embassy office; Mink and Pine Martin (Social, Scouting, Hunting, Gathering) is the community center, kitchen, training, and daycare facilities; Black Bear (Defense and Healing) is the physical health part of the clinic; and Turtle and Bullhead Catfish (Teaching and Healing) is the chemical health and mental health portion of the clinic.
Cuningham has also implemented several regenerative design principles, strategically using local and inherently sustainable materials. The overall commitment to the well-being of residents, visitors, staff and the natural world has also translated into elements of biophilia.
Mino-bimaadiziwin offers a community playground designed for the exploration and engagement of children of all ages, emphasizing the importance of family and the mission of providing homes for a wide range of people; a gathering space with a wooden pergola and a colored concrete plaza, which provides space for outdoor community events; as well as convenient amenities including laundry facilities and an attached parking ramp.
The property is adjacent to a major light rail stop and other public transportation. Part of a 25-year urban development revitalization plan, the community is also located in the heart of the American Indian Cultural Corridor, positioning residents close to art galleries, restaurants, services and amenities. other culturally-oriented housing communities.