Feasibility study underway for Hopi development along I-40 corridor

Hopi Tribe Economic Development Corporation to finish Phase 3 of study and present recommendations to Hopi Tribal Council

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The Hopi Tribe Economic Development Corporation (HTEDC) has completed two phases of a feasibility study for development on Hopi-owned land along the I-40 corridor from Flagstaff to Winslow, and a travel plaza in Holbrook.

Phase one, which the organization completed around the end of April or May of last year, took an inventory of the land owned by the Hopi Tribe and identified areas where economic development would make sense around the various interchanges along I-40.

Kevin Lombardo, CEO of the HTEDC said the Hopi Tribe owns land at Twin Arrows, Buffalo Range Road, Two Guns, Meteor Crater and Corey Post Stop. The tribe also owns 200 acres of trust land in Winslow. He said phase one of the feasibility study identified two things: which of the pieces of land owned by the Hopi Tribe could be developed and what is happening development-wise in Flagstaff or Winslow in the next 10 years.

"Looking at what the needs will be over the next 10 years, whether it is affordable housing, manufacturing, or a technology center. There are different types of needs in the marketplace to support the growth that is happening in this area," Lombardo said. "In phase one we actually eliminated a number of places because of distance and because of some archaeological sites."

Phase two, which was completed at the end of October, identified what properties were economically viable by studying what kind of activity was already taking place in the area. The study looked at immediate need in some of the areas and weighed that against the ease of construction and infrastructure costs.

Before phase three takes place, HTEDC will bring recommendations for development to the Hopi Tribal Council in the next 30-45 days.

"To get to shovel the dirt, I think there are still some hurdles we have to overcome and we're working on those right now," Lombardo said.

Some of those hurdles are how to finance the projects and the infrastructure around the projects. The Tribal Council will need to address what to do about development in areas that have been identified as trust land where arrangements will need to be made for police, fire, water and sewer. If the tribe doesn't meet those needs then a plan would have to be put in place to have them subcontracted out.

Lombardo said one of the more important goals of phase three is to engage with the Hopi people in the 12 villages to not only give them an idea of what the project is but also to seek their input on development that represents the Hopi culture.

"We want to do that in a collaborative way with the community," he said.

Phase one identified the location of archaeological sites. A consideration for phase three is whether to protect those sites or whether they become part of the development. Those decisions will be made in collaboration with the Hopi Cultural Preservation office.

Another goal is to create economic development for the Hopi people through temporary construction jobs but also by creating Hopi artist markets.

"Those are the kinds of things we want the villages and all Hopi people to be involved in throughout this process," Lombardo said.

As for what might specifically be built, Lombardo said his group has identified some needs and are considering many ideas.

"When you look at Twin Arrows, there are obviously, congruent, businesses that fit and can be supportive. We know that housing is an issue, not only in Flagstaff but also for workforce housing," he said. "We have to look at, if something is going in there in the next six months, is there enough market demand that can support two of them? If not, can we effectively be in a position to be there in the immediate future?"

With four development projects already taking place in the northern Arizona region, Lombardo said some issues need to be addressed.

"There is a little bit of a sense of urgency because there is the concept of first to market and I question how much development the whole northern Arizona region can support not only from economic dollars being spent but in workforce availability," he said. "Even with that concern we do have a workforce we can tap into, in the Winslow area and on the Hopi reservation. Part of the corporation's mission is to create those economic opportunities for the Hopi people but in reality, there is still going to be a workforce situation."

The Hopi reservation is far away from some of the areas, but Lombardo believes that the distance can create an opportunity that allows the Hopi people to come to work by establishing a transportation system.

Depending on what projects move forward, the corporation believes they can be another way of helping people interact with the Hopi culture.

"Is it an artist gallery? Is it a market setting? Something that represents the three mesas or the 12 villages that gives people another way to experience Hopi in addition to Explore Hopi," Lombardo said. "Where Explore Hopi is about bringing people to Hopi... maybe this is a way we can bring Hopi to the people."

Lombardo said that phase three is probably a 90 day process to establish a master plan and get ready to begin construction.

"If we're able to address some of those issues, which is a collaborative effort with the Hopi tribal government and tribal departments, then I believe we could truly be ready later this year or possibly early 2015," Lombardo said.

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