DOWAGIAC – Over 150 acres in South Bend transformed into a tribal community. We're getting an inside look at plans for what a possible casino development could look like in South Bend.
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians hopes to build that development in the southwest part of the city between State Road 23, the Bypass and Locust Road. They own a chunk of land out there.
The development in South Bend won't look much different than any other neighborhood in South Bend – single family homes, a community center, a park.
And that's the main message from tribal officials on Thursday: The new development won't make an elaborate dent in South Bend esthetically, but it will economically.
"What you see here is similar to what we would do," said John Warren with the Pokagan Band of Potawatomi Indians.
The tribal development in Dowagiac could soon be mirrored in South Bend. The Pokagon Band owns 164 acres in the southwest corner of the city.
“I believe when we build in South Bend it will bring more residents back," Warren said.
The 600 Pokagon’s in northern Indiana need a home base. Right now, they travel to Michigan for healthcare, educational opportunities and tribal events.
"A lot of our Indiana residents don't want to relocate to Michigan, they're part of the [South Bend] community," Warren said. “They would like to live work and play in the same community they're used to."
They plan to build 44 homes in South Bend just like the homes in Dowagiac. Also a community center like the one that already exists.
And we can't forget...plans for a casino.
"The tribal council never wants to take future tools off from other tribal councils," Warren said.
Warren won't say if a casino is in the immediate plans. He says what's more important is that Pokagon’s will now be comfortable in Indiana and South Bend will benefit from their plans.
"We always look to our local area, use all local materials, try to use local labor, try to use all our vendors, architects. We try to use all local,” Warren said.
They're still waiting on state and federal approval to move forward with the project. The Pokagons are hoping to break ground within the next 6 years.
If approved, Indiana is expected to ask the Pokagons for a share of gaming revenue. That's because tribal casinos have no sales taxes.
This would be the first tribal casino in Indiana complete with restaurants, a meeting space and a parking garage.