Streetscape funds approved, focus on downtown beautification

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

City officials have been notified that funding is finally available for the initial phase of Streetscape beautification projects in downtown Pawhuska.

In March 2013, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation announced approval of a $476,000 grant for the local project. At the time, most had given up on the Streetscape grant — which had been applied for more than three years earlier.

“They asked if we still wanted it (the grant) and I told them ‘yes’,” said City Manager Paul McAlexander. “So, it’s finally coming true.”

McAlexander added that the city also found out it received approval of a grant from the state department of trails.

“It will require us to provide $160,000 to match,” the City Manager said, adding that the matched funding still needed to be found.

A grant the city was seeking for the fire department was not approved, but McAlexander said officials would try again next year.

“Two out of three works for us,” he said.

The city council will help coordinate funding for the Streetscape projects, McAlexander said. Designs for the local proposal were created by public committees directed by Kevin Franklin of Land Plan Consultants.

Streetscape funds coming through ODOT will be supplemented by $100,000 matches by the city and the Osage Nation, according to earlier reports on the downtown improvement/beautification program.

One local edifice in dire need of beautification is the Triangle Building, which occupies a prime spot in the center of downtown.

“I’m definitely not going to favor of spending anything on that building,” McAlexander said.

The triangular-shaped structure, which was originally constructed in 1913, has long been a favorite of architectural admirers. Frequently listed as one of Oklahoma’s most endangered historic properties, it has been escaped the wrecking ball in the past due to its unique qualities. The latest rescue of the building came few years ago.

Meanwhile, its demise has continued as it sat empty — with loose bricks and broken windows posing dangers to all who come near. As funding for its renovations have not been found, the structure has become more and more of a target for local officials. A month ago, municipal efforts were renewed to convince the owner to improve the safety of the building’s safety.

On Monday, City Councilman Mark Buchanan asked if it would be proper for the city to send a letter to the owner of the Triangle Building expressing the growing concern about dangers currently posed by the dilapidated condition of the building in the center of downtown.

“I think you ought to threaten him a little bit,” said Acting City Attorney Robert Wilson, who offered to draft a letter that the council can consider sending to owner. “It’s a public nuisance — and now there’s a fence around it, so you can’t even use the sidewalk.”

Newly-elected Osage Nation Assistant Chief Raymond Red Corn asked council members to re-consider a plan for modifying the Grandview Avenue roadway at its intersection with Kihekah. Earlier this year, the council rejected the tribe’s request for the closing of Grandview in order to conform with its Osage Campus Master Plan.

In denying the ON’s Grandview proposal, city officials had said it is generally not permissable to close a street that continues to be actively used.

The Osage Campus improvements got underway earlier this year and steel framework is nearly complete for a new Osage Nation Welcome Center.

Red Corn, who was officially sworn into office five days ago, said there may have been some miscommunication about the Grandview proposal — which he referred to as a “roundabout.”

“All I’m asking is that you reconsider the request on a future agenda ,” the assistant chief said. “I’d just like for you to re-visit it and discuss what we want to do — knowing you may reach the same decision as previously.”

Council agreed to a reconsideration of the ON proposal.