Ambitious plans for bringing the abandoned Ward's Cove cannery in Kenai back to life are taking flight.
Jon Faulkner, one of two business partners behind the project, said plans for turning the nearly 100-year-old facility into a multiuse destination resort called Kenai Landing are progressing.
Though the establishment won't be open Memorial Day as Faulkner originally hoped, since this year's winter likely will delay construction efforts, it is slated to be open on a limited scale by June 15.
Since the cannery's closure in 1999, the site has been empty, its 50-plus acres and 35 buildings abandoned. Faulkner of Homer and his partner, Steve Agni of Anch-orage, saw potential in the sprawling site at the mouth of the Kenai River and decided to capitalize on its scenic location, diverse commercial possibilities and interesting history.
The list of features Faulkner and Agni eventually hope to incorporate into Kenai Landing is long and ambitious. Fish processing will once again take place at the site, although on a much more limited level than it did in the past.
Sun strikes Ward's Cove cannery after a passing storm.
Photo by Jay Barrett
Loading and boat launch ramps, as well as a floating dock, are planned in conjunction with the fish processing operation and to facilitate on-site fishing charters. Hotel lodging, an RV park, a restaurant and a brew pub with on-site brewery are planned to be the mainstays of the operation.
Other planned features include a marketplace area with vendor shops similar in concept to Pike Place Market in Seattle, plus youth camps, a theater, horse riding, a climbing wall and other activities.
The deal to buy to site was expected to close earlier this month, so construction efforts have not begun. But that doesn't mean the project has been stagnant since it was first announced in October.
"We've done a substantial amount of planning work and a substantial amount of environmental assessment work," Faulkner said. "But we haven't actually started on the physical work."
When construction does get under way, the first projects will be to renovate and convert the bunkhouses into modern lodging facilities and turn the original 1922 cannery into the restaurant and brew pub.
Faulkner said he plans to have lodging, the restaurant and brew pub, fish processing and the market place operational for the summer. He's been in contact with several vendors to provide these and other services.
"We've met with great success all around, starting with the fish processing operations," Faulkner said. "... We have a dozen tenants that are sort of at the lease-signing phase in the warehouse market, and we're in discussions with a local brewer."
Plans to commemorate and enhance the site's history also are under way.
Faulkner said several buildings have been designated as historical, which means contractors won't have to enforce the full level of building codes when renovating them, so the structures will retain their character.
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