The ribbon was cut Friday on the newest senior wellness center built with MAPS 3 money in the oldest part of the southside Capitol Hill area. It will be called the Pete White Health and Wellness Center.
Former Oklahoma City Council member Pete White called the naming of the 39,000 square-foot center after him a “signal honor.”
He said health was one of his “core concerns” and spent significant time “fighting big tobacco” on smoking ordinances that were changed during his tenure.
Free Press caught a few moments with White between many well-wishes from long-time friends who came to tour the center and express their pride.
“I would like to think people are here out of respect. But, I think a lot of people are just here to see if this really happened or not,” he joked. He later repeated it in his speech during the ceremony.
It was typical humor of the southside native who graduated from Southeast High School and then, after college and law school, practiced law for years in the Capitol Hill area.
We covered his last day on the council in 2017:
We asked what it was like to be able to come to the ribbon-cutting for a building named after him when so many are named after people who have already died.
“Public bodies ought to think about this kind of thing more often because it is so nice to have it happen so my family can see it, my friends can see it, and I can see it,” White said.
He said the building was “beyond anything I ever thought.”
Mayor David Holt told us before the ceremony that he was excited because the $10.5 million project was “outside of the downtown area” and because it was his “first MAPS 3 ribbon-cutting as mayor.”
In his speech during the ceremony, he said the facility was a sign of “an exciting present and an even more exciting future.”
Senator Michael Brooks-Jimenez grew up in the Capitol Hill area and is now the Oklahoma senator from the area. We talked to him after the ceremony.
“My understanding is that statistics show this is one of the unhealthiest zip codes in the state of Oklahoma,” he said. “And so for the city and OKCPS to do a collaboration, I’m very excited.”
Three of the speakers emphasized the benefits of a health center that not only was directed at seniors but people of all ages.
Ward 4 Councilman Todd Stone, who succeeded White, pointed to the design and function of the facility as not just about recreation and healthcare, but about “friendships and support.”
Northcare will be the manager of the facility. It’s CEO, Randy Tate focused in his comments on the design, saying the center is “inclusive of a spectrum of issues” and ages.
Mary Sosa, who has lived in that part of the city for 38 years, talked to us before the ceremony.
“It’s going to be a tremendous, tremendous asset to the community, not just because it’s a place to congregate, but also because it’s a place where we can get healthy together.”
OKCPS a partner
The land for the center has been leased from Oklahoma City Public Schools for a long term even though the building belongs to the city.
A part of the agreement in building the center on the south side of the campus of Capitol Hill High School at SW 36th and Walker was that students in need of health care would have access to healthcare the center provides.
The center’s medical clinic offers primary care and behavioral health services through NorthCare and Variety Care, and physical therapy services. It has 12 exam rooms, a pharmacy and a separate entrance and waiting room for students.
Capitol Hill High School is in OKCPS Board of Education District 6 which is being served by board member Gloria Torres, a native of the south side and graduate of the high school.
“This is the epitome of community,” said Torres.
“We have our children at the school and we have our parents right over here. Family is so important to this community.”
“It’s one of the most beautiful places in the city and right here in our community,” said Torres.
The center is the latest project completed with MAPS 3 money. The building will be completely paid for when it opens.
MAPS 3 is a $777 million, debt-free capital improvement program to improve the quality of life in Oklahoma City.
It is funded by a 1-cent sales tax initiative that began in April 2010 and ended in December 2017.
MAPS 3 funds eight projects: Downtown Convention Center, Downtown Public Park, Modern Streetcar/Transit, Oklahoma River Improvements, Oklahoma State Fairgrounds Improvements, Senior Health and Wellness Centers, Trails and Sidewalks.