Without fanfare, the Osage Nation has purchased a major swath of land on Pawhuska’s Main Street where it intends to build a soaring new medical clinic to replace unoccupied buildings.
The Nation now owns all of the south side of Main from Lynn Avenue to Prudom, with the final piece of real estate closing on May 26, when it closed a deal to buy the 1.75 acres where the old Safeway grocery sits for $262,500.
At 65,000 square feet, the new clinic will be more than five times the size of the existing clinic that was built in 1977 and has long been overcrowded.
The clinic will span two city blocks currently occupied by the deteriorating Safeway and Moore’s Hardware stores; both are slated for demolition. Secretary of Development Casey Johnson said that he expects both sites to be razed by Oct. 1.
The Nation started amassing land on Main by snapping up individual lots in various ways: Straight purchases from individuals, bidding at a foreclosure auction, swapping lots, and plucking others from probate sales. Those lots not earmarked for the clinic are reserved for the visitor’s center and, eventually, outdoor recreation. The Nation also has title to the former railroad right of way, where Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear had hoped to build a sports and health complex that would mesh with the clinic, but the Osage Congress shot down those plans.
“If we get a new Congress and they’re supportive, we can quickly pull it back together,” Standing Bear said. “We’re not going to sit around and whine about it.”
At 2020 prices, the new clinic was expected to cost $25 million – a price tag that is likely to rise. The funding will come from a low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that Health Authority Board Chair Cindra Shangreau said will be paid back through third-party billing – clinic revenue.
In addition to being much larger, the new clinic will offer more services than the old clinic on the hill, adding physical and occupational therapy to its list of services, along with audiology, pediatrics, podiatry and additional diagnostics such as MRIs, according to the architectural renderings and plans by Erdman, a healthcare design firm based in Madison, Wisc.
The clinic is expected to grow thanks to the new facility and its expanded services.
On May 19, the Health Authority Board publicly met with Indian Health Service officials to explore a joint venture whereby the tribe would pay for the construction of the clinic and IHS would pay for the staffing. Shangreau was disappointed that the IHS process was slow and cumbersome, unlikely to work out until 2025 or 2027.
Clinic Manager Kirk Shaw said that not only was the wait too long, but the IHS alternative was extremely competitive and there was no guarantee that the Osage Nation would be chosen for such a joint venture.
The clinic project was a major goal of Dr. Ron Shaw, the former WZZHC chief executive and chief medical officer; he died before his dream could become a reality, but it will leave an indelible mark on Pawhuska’s downtown, replacing deteriorating commercial buildings with a modern, airy, sustainable building spanning the two blocks between Prudom and Rogers.
While demolition for the clinic has not quite begun, the Nation has been tidying up the neighboring properties it owns. It recently demolished the former Smith house at the southwest corner of Main and Rogers, property for which it paid $192,500 in September 2021. Last year, it paid $21,000 for the house built by Charles C. Constantine – the 1920s’ proprietor of the theater that still bears his name – and demolished it. It also negotiated a swap for one parcel its needed in the area that was owned by Dollhouse Road Brewing, which agreed to swap the parcel for the vacant site of the old Hernandez restaurant on Mathews, which is close to the brewery.
For the clinic site, the Nation paid to Terry and Beverly Moore $300,000 in March of 2021 for the former Moore’s Hardware property that lies on just over an acre of land, according to Osage County land records.
The old Safeway, which was a Homeland store in its most recent incarnation as a grocery store before it became a supper club then saloon, has taken 18 months to buy, largely because it was snarled in three different estates in New York that had to go through probate, with all the attendant legal minutiae that added up to numerous delays.