A unique 110-unit affordable housing community that provides housing for Native Americans and features the Red Lake Nation embassy and a health care clinic is becoming an integral part of Minneapolis’ American Indian Cultural Corridor.
Mino-bimaadiziwin, which means “living the good life” in Ojibwe, provides housing to Red Lake Ojibwe Band members and other local Native American residents, as well as brings much-needed services to 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 identified a strong need for culturally specific supportive housing for its community members living off the tribe’s northern Minnesota reservation,” says Olbekson. “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 funding sources, including tax-exempt bonds, low-income housing tax credits, and tax increment financing. The funding partners include the city of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Huntington Bank, Fannie Mae, Raymond James Affordable Housing Investments, the Metropolitan Council, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines.
“We’ve seen widespread support for Mino-bimaadiziwin from a range of local stakeholders who hold a strong belief that this permanent housing solution, as well as convenient access to community resources and physical and mental health services, will create a solid foundation upon which residents will flourish,” says Jeff Schoeneck, principal and executive director of Cuningham’s 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 over 300 people called the Wall of Forgotten Natives.
The housing opened last year, and the health clinic is expected to open soon.
Fannie Mae has a video that highlights the impact of the project on its residents and the community.
The apartments and community center simultaneously respond to contemporary tribal life while honoring and communicating tradition, which is reflected in and facilitated by its design. The Cuningham team collaborated closely with Red Lake Ojibwe community members and other stakeholders to ensure the design was strongly rooted in place and aligned with enhancing and uplifting the resident experience and overall mission of the project.
“Beyond the straightforward housing and services, Mino-bimaadiziwin serves a deeper purpose of bonding, teaching, and transmitting cultural knowledge that is deeply important to tribal cultures,” Olbekson says. “In turn, this will enrich the lives of residents through providing a sense of place and pride. To achieve this, we crafted a strategic, modern design with the subtle inclusion of elements indicative of history and traditions.”
Specific design elements incorporating and celebrating the tribal culture include:
· A garden of four raised beds sits adjacent to the clinic, which is based around the traditional form of an Ojibwe medicine garden;
· The ceiling and wall treatment throughout the building features locally sourced cedar, a sacred tree to the Ojibwe;
· The tribe’s traditional dances and brightly colored and patterned clothing are reflected in wall graphics in key locations throughout the property;
· Light fixtures and woven textured elements in the housing lobby reflect traditional basket weaving; and
· The coloring of the gathering circle is a graphic representation of the Ojibwe medicine wheel.
Different property “zones” represent the Red Lake Nation’s seven clans: 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 day care facilities; Black Bear (Defense and Healing) is the physical health portion of the clinic; and Turtle and Bullhead Catfish (Teaching and Healing) is the chemical health and mental health portion of the clinic.
Cuningham also implemented several regenerative design principles, strategically utilizing local and inherently sustainable materials. The overall commitment to the well-being of residents, visitors, staff, and the natural world was also reflected with elements of biophilia.
Mino-bimaadiziwin features a community playground designed for exploration and engagement of children of all ages, underlining the importance of family and the mission to provide homes for a wide range of people; a gathering space with a wood pergola and colored concrete plaza, which provides a 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 situated in the heart of the American Indian Cultural Corridor, positioning residents near culturally focused art galleries, dining, services, and additional housing communities.