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Wellness center project on schedule

Kenaitze Indian Tribe plans for new health facility to open next year

Posted: December 10, 2012 - 9:43pm  |  Updated: December 11, 2012 - 1:19pm
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Craig Soto, Josh Christensen and Giles Landry, all Swanson Steel employees from Iron Workers Union 751, work last week shortly after sunset on the structure of the new Dena'ina Wellness Center under construction in Old Town Kenai.  Photo by M. Scott Moon
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Craig Soto, Josh Christensen and Giles Landry, all Swanson Steel employees from Iron Workers Union 751, work last week shortly after sunset on the structure of the new Dena'ina Wellness Center under construction in Old Town Kenai.

Construction on the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s new 52,000-square foot Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai is on schedule, and already the building is so large it is a major landmark from the air, said Jaylene Peterson-Nyren, the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s executive director.

“Every time I give an update,” said Peterson-Nyren, “I go to Old Town (Kenai) and it’s two steps ahead.”

The steel for the first and second floors of the center — located on Mission Avenue behind the tribe’s Tyotkas Elder Center — is installed and steel for the building’s gathering space is also set, she said. In the next month the walls and roof will go up.

Peterson-Nyren said the center’s doors will open by winter 2013.

The $35 million building will house all of the tribe’s existing health services — dental care, mental health and primary care services, for example — while adding an enhanced pharmacy and optometry, physical therapy, traditional healing, lab and imaging services.

“It’s kind of a one-stop for all of your health and wellness services,” Peterson-Nyren said.

The Rasmuson Foundation will contribute $750,000 for furniture and facility equipment, according to its website.

Programs sponsored under the Behavioral Health Alaska grant will be free to the community. Peterson-Nyren said that includes family services and drug and alcohol treatment, for example.

When the facility opens next winter, it will usher in 50 new jobs in its first year operating. The building will also have 108 employees and draw more people seeking service, Peterson-Nyren said.

“It will revitalize a lot of the Old Town economy,” she said.

The tribe’s services have been located for more than 20 years in the city’s strip malls, and Peterson-Nyren said the tribe has needed a larger space for a long time.

Peterson-Nyren said the health center will change the shape of Old Town Kenai. The building will provide a gathering space for the tribe that can hold about 200 people.

“It’s a nice, wide-open, well-windowed space,” she said.


Dan Schwartz can be reached at

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robert white
robert white 12/11/12 - 08:31 pm

How do they get so much money!!! I bet there's a bad smell somewhere!!!!!!!!

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 12/11/12 - 09:29 pm
Wise Investors

I would venture to say that wise investors has a little top do with the money they spread around. Then there is also the land swaps with city and state and subsequent sales and property management that also helps.
I'm glad to see the productive way they help others, i only wish my fellwo Choctaw Indians would do as well.
Wise leaders are the reason we get yearly dividends that the money hungry investor want to rob us all of and eventually will get-r-done. I wish we used more of that money thats lost in stocks for the good of Alaskans like the Kenaitze do.
Basically i would say that they took care of what they were given and it shows every where to their good for many.

Sam Von Pufendorf
Sam Von Pufendorf 12/12/12 - 04:07 am

"The facility is being funded through a joint venture agreement with the Indian Health Service. What that means is that if we can construct the facility with other funds of our own making, then the Indian Health Service will fund the operation and maintenance costs plus one hundred and eight positions to staff the facility over the next twenty years."

kksalm 12/13/12 - 09:56 pm
Kudos to our hometown Tribe!

I find it to be quite a coincidence that our Kenaitze family has undertaken a project of this magnitude in the mist of the yet to be launching of "Imagine Kenai 2030". AKA the latest "Kenai Comprehensive Plan". It's almost as if the Tribe had been listening to all the citizens the city of Kenai invited to share their point of views in their "work sessions" designed for our assumed wonderful future.
Now we have a new health facility right where we need it to be. Smack dab in the heart of our city. Burger Bus rejoice! Hey, maybe something cool will happen at Gary Kings! What about the old Carr's Mall? Too bad that family running Sears couldn't hold on a little longer. I bet Little SkiMos is going to like this.
Maybe we should rethink expanding Mixed Use Zoning beyond the confines of Downtown.
It looks like "Imagine Kenai 2013" needs to go back to the drawing board IMO. The city just had a cash cow drop on their laps out of the wild blue. City Fathers high five. What can it mean? Businesses downtown? Go figure.

The Kenaitze Tribe? Thanks, Neighbor!

Have a wonderful day!

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