SCIT Tribal Ops Center Entrance
Interior entry wall mural at SCIT Tribal Ops Center
Main lobby waiting area SCIT Tribal Ops Center
Hallway cultural art SCIT Tribal Ops Center
Public meeting room outdoor view SCIT Tribal Ops Center
Public meeting room SCIT Tribal Ops Center
Exterior of the new SCIT Tribal Operations Center
Exterior with native plant species SCIT Tribal Ops Center

Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan – Black Elk Tribal Operations Center


Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan


Mt. Pleasant, MI

Architectural Renovation Creates Efficiencies and Celebrates Native American Tribe’s Heritage

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan (“the Tribe”) was operating its sovereign nation independent government from several disconnected buildings and offices when it engaged OHM Advisors to conduct a space programming study to begin reviewing how its existing facilities fit its current operating needs.

At that time, the Tribe’s multiple buildings consisted of a Tribal Operations Center in a converted former school, the relatively new but underutilized Black Elk building—which housed its IT, Human Resources and other departments—and several other off-site office locations. For various reasons, none of these facilities could house all of the Tribe’s governmental departments, and operating inefficiencies in security, accessibility and technology had led the Tribe to consider building a new structure to house all departments.

Our team performed an extensive space programming review—conducting stakeholder meetings, interviewing department heads from each major program element, studying each department’s adjacency requirements, and reviewing space allocations per employee and per department to help determine optimal department locations. After cross-referencing the data with the existing space, our team proposed a renovation solution to the Black Elk building in lieu of designing a whole new structure. We created conceptual floor plans for redesigns of the existing space and designs for a single-story addition with a lower level, which the Tribe approved.

Throughout all phases of the project, our team strived to integrate the Tribe’s independence and rich heritage into the interior and exterior spaces, focusing on sustainability and the Tribe’s connection to nature. We assisted through construction administration and implemented field design collage artwork in the building entryway and hallways celebrating the Tribe’s history. The interior design reflects the natural environment outside, and the exterior now includes modified landscape architecture returning native plant species to the site. The $11M, 105,000 sf renovated structure houses all of the Tribe’s governmental operations with office space appropriate for each department’s needs, dedicated areas for public meeting space, and a renewed community atmosphere for the Tribe and its members.

Project highlights: architecture, space programming study, space programming planning, renovation, MEP engineering, site design, interior design, landscape design, structural engineering, construction administration