Entrepreneur finds his next challenge at historic cannery

Jon Faulkner creates niche renovating projects designed to appeal to visitors

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Though Jon Faulkner of Homer is new to the Kenai business scene, he's no stranger to the real estate and tourism industries of Alaska.

Faulkner is one of the people behind plans to turn Ward's Cove cannery in Kenai into a multiuse destination resort called Kenai Landing.

This is not Faulkner's first experience at purchasing and revitalizing such a site. He was one of the people behind the restoration of the Van Gilder Hotel in Seward and the Land's End Resort in Homer.

Born in Anchorage, Faulkner is a lifelong Alaskan although he did attend private school in New Hampshire and college Outside. Faulkner got his start in Alaska real estate in 1985, selling commercial property. Land's End in Homer came up for sale and that venture got him started in the visitor industry, which he found to his liking, he said.

"(The visitor industry) changes every day," he said. "It's one of the few growth industries that Alaska has had and been able to sustain. For 30 years it's been largely a constant growth curve, and it's still filled with opportunity. I think Alaska still holds a tremendous amount of opportunity in the way of tourism."

Being involved in restaurants and hotels is something else Faulkner enjoys.

'This is arguably, I think, one of the top five historic sites in all of Alaska. It dates back to 1906. There's not much history in Alaska prior to that certainly not that exists.'

Jon Faulkner of the Ward's Cove cannery in Kenai

"I love the service industry because it's working with people," he said. "I'm not a sit-in-the office-and-work-at-a-computer kind of guy. I like to be out working with my hands."

Renovation and revitalization projects, like Land's End, Van Gilder and now Kenai Landing, test Faulkner's creativity and aesthetic abilities, as well as technical knowledge and business expertise.

"It's a big challenge and challenges you on a lot of different levels," he said.

One of Faulkner's favorite things about projects like Kenai Landing is the chance to preserve history. Faulkner got a degree in history from Harvard University and has a particular passion for preserving Alaska history.

"That's part of what motivates me; part of what drives me on a daily basis," he said. "Alaska has very little (well-preserved) history."

The state has suffered from a lack of well-funded historical preservation efforts, although that is beginning to change, he said. The state parks department and city of Kenai do a good job with historical preservation, and Seward has been working in that direction, as well.

The Kenai Ward's Cove site in particular is an exciting historical site, Faulkner said.

"This is arguably, I think, one of the top five historic sites in all of Alaska," he said. "It dates back to 1906. There's not much history in Alaska prior to that certainly not that exists."

Faulkner plans to move to Kenai seasonally once Kenai Landing takes shape to have a constant hand in the project's development. Though the effort will take up much of his time, he has several activities he plans to eventually incorporate into the site that will keep his five kids entertained, including youth camps.

A horse-riding vendor already is lined up, which is good news to Faulkner's 6-year-old, who is a "cowboy waiting to happen," he said.

"In terms of my kids, they're looking forward to not only working on this project, but recreating," Faulkner said. There's lots to do around the property, and it's a very beautiful area."

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