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Old Calico Cat Tavern will make way for medical building to help fill health-care hole in northwest Independence.

Updated: 2013-05-15T19:20:05Z

By BRIAN BURNES

The Kansas City Star

It wasn’t so much ground-breaking but a bar-busting.

Last week officials gathered in northwest Independence to take sledgehammers to the old Calico Cat Tavern. The building will be coming down and replaced by the $2.4 million, 8,000-square-foot Fairmount Family Medical Building.

“This is the first step back for Fairmount,” Charlie Shields, Truman Medical Center Lakewood chief operating officer, said during a brief ceremony.

The new facility, scheduled to open at 607 S. Ash Ave. next year, will represent significant new health care investment in northwest Independence, said Independence Mayor Don Reimal.

“It has taken longer than we anticipated,” Reimal told about 100 people gathered just south of the old bar on U.S. 24.

As Reimal detailed, many residents of northwest Independence grew anxious in 2007 when Independence Regional Health Center, for decades an emotional and financial anchor in the older section of town, closed on the same day that the new Centerpoint Medical Center opened in southeast Independence, on East 39th Street.

Many northwest Independence residents complained to city officials about losing easy access to health care.

The new clinic, when completed, is expected to provide acute and some specialty care, including newborn, pediatric, wellness education, chronic disease management and older-adult services. Outpatient behavioral and mental health services also will be available.

The Rev. Bob Spradling of the Maywood Baptist Church delivered a short prayer before the ceremony.

“I swear to you, reverend,” said Shields, “this will be the only time I’ve been inside of the Calico Cat.”

After brief remarks, several officials grabbed sledgehammers.

A bulls-eye been had been painted on the bar’s south wall and some of the building’s cinderblocks already had been loosened.

Delivering the first blows were Reimal, Shields, Randall Cramer, now serving as physician in a temporary Fairmount medical building, and John W. Bluford III, Truman Medical Centers president and chief executive officer.

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